How to deal with homesickness
18 October 2017
Homesickness is 'a natural and very valid human response to change', explains myUCL Student Journalist Maryam Clark.
So here's the thing: you've moved out to university for the first time to study your most favourite subject in the whole entire world and although, initially, you were ready and raring to go, you can't help but feel a little homesick now that you're there.
Well, my friend, allow me to put your worries to rest and tell you this: you're absolutely, definitely, 1050% sure as potatoes not alone in this. What's more is that there are many ways to both help yourself and get help through this than you may have initially anticipated:
1. Recognise the signs
When I was 9 and had accidentally run face-first into a brick wall (true story), my doc told me that the first step towards feeling better is to first identify what's wrong. Both physical and mental symptoms of homesickness are pretty varied per person but, according to the National Union of Students, they can include difficulty sleeping, constant or frequent crying, changes in appetite, nausea, dizziness, headaches, depression, anxiety and a lack of concentration.
2. Don't be too hard on yourself
Homesickness is not a weakness. It's a natural and very valid human response to change. Moving away from home and going to university for the first time - whether you're moving the distances of several countries, galaxies or just a few roads - is a pretty big transition you're facing. It takes time to adjust to your new surroundings. So be kind to you and give yourself the time that you need to replant your well-socked feet.
3. Keep in contact
Regretfully, gone are the days of sending carrier owls with messages to the ones we love. Sigh. However, telephones, social media and that Skype thing do seem to be proving themselves as really effective ways of staying in contact with friends and family. Talk through how you're feeling with someone. Let them know you're struggling.The chances are that so have they at some point and they may have some more personal advice to offer you. The most important thing is, however, to keep in contact and not isolate yourself. You've got this, though there's no need to go through it alone.
4. Bring some familiar pictures and items with you from home
During her first year of university, my friend slept with a picture of her pet pig, Philip IV, on her dresser every night. No matter what reminds you of the comfort of home, bring it with you. Keep it somewhere you can glance at it whenever you feel you need it. Allow yourself this; it really does help. Oink.
5. Get Involved in University activities
I don't know about you, but I signed up for EVERYTHING during Freshers' Fair. How that later panned out is something we shall strictly not speak of. However, UCLU and Student Central have a humungous range of activities and clubs you can get involved with. I personally recommend checking out the fantastic UCLU Volunteering Society as well as the various cultural societies that are available (click here for a mahoosive list on those). They're excellent ways of generating new experiences and meeting people; both very effective methods of decreasing that feeling of loneliness.
6. Get to know your surroundings
Here's the one most engrained lesson I've learnt from my 6 years at UCL so far: get lost. No, really. (Well that and that Biology can sometimes get very weird). Take designated days to go out on a walk through your local area and then through the rest of London. The more you get to know a place, the more confident you become in that place. Take that new friend you met whilst volunteering on a cupcake stall last week. Keep a journal of all of your adventures. There is a lot out there waiting for you to experience.
7. Keep Healthy
Wait, please, don't leave yet. I have a scientific fact for you: eating healthily and exercising regularly is good for you. When we're not feeling our best, it becomes very easy to slip into destructive eating, sleeping and exercising habits. So make sure you're getting enough sleep, nutrients and oxygen to keep your brain and body strong enough to deal with the change. On a more serious note though, if you're finding these habits a little harder to control, please do seek help from your GP or your university's psychological services (click here for UCL's one). Once you've sought help, it gets easier, believe me.
8. Seek help
As all the cosmic forces of the universe conspire to bring this article towards its due end, this last piece of advice can often be the hardest to take and then act upon. It's never shameful to ask for help. Everyone deserves to feel happy and safe in their own environment. As mentioned earlier, UCL has its own Psychological Services and Student Support and Wellbeing to lend a hand, but your GP, friends and family can also do pretty neat jobs at getting you back to feeling 100% cheesecake again (isn't that what the kids are saying?). Whether it's loneliness, finances, or housing troubles that are getting you down, there is someone out there who can help you whilst having you in their best interests. So please, ask them. You can do this, fellow trooper. I believe in you.