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Overcoming homesickness

What exactly is homesickness anyway? Let’s ask Google:

“a feeling of longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it”

This definition makes homesickness seem quite simple and straightforward. In my opinion, homesickness is much more complex and can have a significant negative impact on mental health. Homesickness can actually be classified as an Adjustment Disorder, contain elements of both anxiety and depression and occur after a separation. University students, regardless of geographic distance from home, are more likely to get homesick than the average population.

Why is this? Well there are 3 main reasons people feel homesick and all are applicable to university students. Firstly, experience. For a lot of students, this is the first occasion where we spend a significant amount of time away from our home town or country. Secondly, many of us are forewarned about feeling extremely homesick and are more likely to conform to this perpetuated idea. Thirdly, we are bound by our timetables and by university dates and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the perceived lack of control.

Homesickness is extremely normal and it’s something I struggled with throughout my first year of university. I’ll be sharing some of the challenges I faced and how I try to overcome them.

Challenge: Finding time for friends and family

University life is extremely hectic, the main struggle I faced last year was finding time to keep up with my friends and family back home. It didn’t help that I had an 8 hour time difference to worry about. It was tough not calling my parents every day, and I felt as though I was missing out on things back home and I was only hearing about them a week or so later. Having friends at university themselves is even tougher because they are in the exact same boat you are.

My solution? I realised that work had to come secondary to my mental health and started to timetable calling into my study routine. I knew I wasn’t going to be academically performing at my best if I went to bed everyday drained. The idea of scheduling my calls to friends and family felt weird at first but I just thought about it as a part of my everyday routine. I set aside certain mornings and evenings for purely keeping up with friends and family back home and it made such a difference to my wellbeing before exams in January. Don’t be afraid to stop working sometimes and take that break.

Challenge: Trying to recreate home

Missing friends and family was one thing but missing my physical home was another. Especially since I spend my holidays on the equator, it’s hard to recreate the atmosphere. From home food to culture to sunny skies and summer clothes, some aspects of home just can’t be recreated.

My solution? Embrace that! I couldn’t turn Manchester into Singapore and I didn’t want to. Instead I decided to try mixing aspects from Manchester and Singapore to create new memories instead and not grow to resent certain aspects of uni life. I play Bollywood music when I study, watch movies and eat kurkure. You could even cook a meal for your flatmates. Trying to create a home away from home will never work, you’ll always be comparing the two. So embrace the opportunity you have to make more memories in new places!

It’s normal to feel homesick and you’ll be surprised by how many people relate to you. In case it does get particularly tough please don’t be afraid to seek support from the University Counselling Service.

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