Starting university can involve a wide range of emotions, including excitement, apprehension and homesickness. As well as the academic transition, first year students may also be adjusting to leaving home for the first time, a different financial situation, having to build a new social network, and perhaps dealing with the stress associated with relocating to a new town or country.
The Victoria University First-Year Student Survey found that while many first year students in 2006 generally had a positive transition to university, over a third adjusted less smoothly. Students may feel a longing for what was familiar and secure – be that family, friends, places or routines. These feelings of sadness are natural – especially during times of stress, sickness or crisis.
While homesickness can be difficult, it also presents an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. It presents a chance to take charge of your life, and allows you to learn new inter-personal skills.
Here are some suggestions to keep in mind about coping with homesickness, while creating a second home at Victoria University:
Allow yourself time to adjust. Remind yourself that although you may feel a sense of loss and discomfort, you are capable of surviving these feelings. Allow yourself to relax and explore.
Self care is very important. Make sure you are getting adequate nutrition, relaxation, sleep, exercise, and time to socialise.
Keep in touch with those from home. Having friends and family come and see you in your new flat/hostel might help. Remember that a continuing psychological connection with home and loved ones exists even when you are not there physically.
Analyze your homesickness. What experience, thing or person are you missing the most? Are you longing for someone to listen to you? Do you long to meet people to hang out with? Do you miss your role as a student leader? Have you had trouble finding students with similar values or life experiences? Ask yourself which of these things you can control.
Develop a support network – if you haven’t made friends at university just yet, you may wish to consider joining a club or involving yourself in activities where you will meet others.
Talk about how things are going for you. Remember that many others have experienced homesickness or will be sharing similar feelings.
Limit the amount of time you consciously think of home. Refocus on what you can do now at university.
If your workload is proving too difficult, can you improve your study skills and/or time organisation? Simple planning can help you gain satisfaction from your papers. Student learning support or someone in your department may be able to help.
Get help if you continue to feel distressed – talk with someone at Student Support Services.
There are many things you can do to help yourself, but don’t hesitate to seek out the help of others. Homesickness is not unusual – and it can be worked through.
Adapted from Mary Knapp (2005).