You’ve been living in Cardiff for about a month now and things are beginning to settle down into a routine. Then it hits you. Homesickness. You long for comfort and familiarity because, lets face it, learning to be an adult can be tough stuff. If you’re a first year, you may be a bit surprised that these feelings have suddenly cropped up from nowhere. You hadn’t really thought much about home since you arrived in halls. Why? Because up until now, you’ve been preoccupied with other things. Freshers week was full of fun and excitement and then you spent the first couple of weeks getting used to a new way of living and learning independently.
Last week, the online publication known as ‘The Tab’ published an article expressing a distasteful and harsh viewpoint on students who struggle with homesickness. The writer wrongly accuses those who regularly go home of “running away when it gets too much” and pompously states that they “have no place in halls.” He also belittles a homesick student’s ability to be academic by ignorantly claiming that “it might have been easier to do an empty degree with the Open University.” Quite frankly, this self-righteous individual needs to get off his high horse and go back to commenting on something that he actually has a valid viewpoint on.
Homesickness is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a completely normal phenomenon to experience, even if you love university and most students will feel this way at some point. Even second and third years hanker for home and there are several reasons for this. Firstly, it’s a place where we can forget the stresses of student life and switch off for a couple of days. Some people have a closer relationship with their family than their friends at uni so it makes sense for them to be around those that they are most comfortable with. Others simply find uni life too distracting and go home to concentrate on their work better. Also, there are students who have weekend jobs at home who prefer to travel back and forth every weekend rather than applying for a closer job. Finally, some people don’t get on with their housemates, so knowing that they can go home on weekends makes them feel better about having to live with in a tense environment during the week.
I will be the first to admit that I have had frequent bouts of homesickness over the last couple of years. It can be horrible at times, but I am now in my third year and haven’t let it stop me from doing my best in my degree. This idea that people who experience homesickness are weak is completely ridiculous. In fact, if you stick it out despite feeling this way, you are resilient and will get a great sense of achievement when the three years are over. When I was in my first year, I was teased by other people for going home ‘too often’ but this is how I initially coped with university life. You have to do what is right for you and if that means going home every weekend then do it. Don’t make yourself miserable over the insensitive opinions and pressures of others. As I have said before, if they can’t accept you for who you are, why are they worth your time?
If you’re a bit embarrassed about it (although you shouldn’t be) go and talk to someone you trust. Call up a family member and talk it through or speak to one of your close uni friends about how you’re feeling. The chances are, your friend has felt the same way at some point and will be someone who you can relate to. If you want to talk to someone who has experience advising students, go and see your personal tutor for a chat. They have probably seen it all before several times over and know exactly how to help. Sometimes just talking about issues can help a lot because the issue is no longer bottled up and getting you down.
In between home visits, I find that the best way to tackle homesickness is to keep as busy as possible. If you’re having a difficult day, why not call up a friend and make plans? If you haven’t already, join a couple of societies that will get you out of the house a few nights a week. It’s great fun! If you are on a course that involves a lot of reading, try and encourage your friends to study together at the library. Even if you’re not talking, you have company and people to motivate you to work. The more things you have planned, the less time you have to think about home.
Just because you are not at home, it doesn’t mean that you can’t keep in regular contact with your family and friends at home. I have regular chats with my mum on the phone and software such as Skype and FaceTime enables you to see people as well as hear them. It’s almost as good as having a conversation face to face. My grandmother on the other hand has no idea how to use technology, but I keep in contact with her through letter writing. Call me old fashioned, but I really enjoy writing to her and receiving something in the post every week. Plus it gives me something to do one evening when I get home from university.
Remember, if you are homesick, you have every right to feel that way. Try and remind yourself that you worked hard for your place at university and it is an important transition to get to where you need to be. Just because you miss home, it doesn’t mean that you are not cut out for university and it doesn’t mean you won’t succeed. It just means that you need to make university life suit you.