How To Combat Homesickness in Your First Few Months at Uni

Combat Homesickness as a New Student

​As a freshman studying in a new city or country, there are high chances that you will experience college homesickness at one point or another. You might have difficulties adapting to campus life; essays can become excruciating and, frankly, you might not know where to start with your newfound freedom. Honestly, the process of moving for uni and adapting to a new environment takes its toll on almost all new students. In this case, what can you do to make college homesickness bearable? Read our thorough guide with tips, tricks and solutions below.

Chapter 1: Going to Uni - A Necessary Transition Period

Experiencing college homesickness is completely normal. It's most likely the first time in your life when you no longer live with your parents or benefit from the comfort provided at home. As with any new chapter in life, a transition period is required in order for you to adapt. The three main keys to overcoming college homesickness are:

  • Patience – understand that the transition won't take place overnight
  • Persistence – don't give up if your results aren't immediate
  • Progression – grow from one initiative to the next

1. Why Do You Feel Homesick?

a) Leaving Family & Friends Behind

Some of the main reasons why so many students go through college homesickness are the fun and memories with their loved ones back home. They are accustomed to seeing their family on a daily basis, and the friends they grew up with at least once every few days. However, moving to another city doesn't mean you are leaving them behind. Not only can you visit your hometown, but you can also keep in touch via telephone, email or social media.

b) Adapting to a New Environment

Even though most students blame college homesickness on missing their loved ones, there's another reason that's just as significant. Getting out of one's comfort zone isn't an easy task, even for the most versatile of us. Uni life is nothing compared to any other school you have been to until then, and the new environment takes time to adjust to.

2. Manifestations of Homesickness

a) Difficulties with Sleeping

A great deal of students struggling with college homesickness will find that it has an impact on their sleep. They have trouble going to bed at night and sleeping soundly until their alarm rings in the morning. As a result, their college work might be affected or their general performance at uni. If you start having sleeping problems when you get to your dormitory, it might be caused by college homesickness.

b) Appetite Changes

Numerous students experience a shift in appetite when undergoing college homesickness. In most cases, they end up having completely opposite eating habits. For instance, a student that generally has a hearty appetite might feel like they're suddenly not hungry. On the other hand, one with a typically smaller appetite might find themselves indulging in comfort food.

c) Depression & Anxiety

Some of the most disheartening symptoms associated with college homesickness are anxiety and depression. The scary part about the ordeal is that sometimes missing home can develop into a serious mental disorder. If you feel that any type of depression or anxiety exceeds the stages of college homesickness, reach out to specialists at your university for professional medical attention.

Chapter 2: First Few Months – Adjusting to College Life

In most cases, college homesickness is just about a matter of months for adjustment, these college life hacks will help. While some students adapt after the first few weeks, others might require 3-4 months of patience, persistence and progression to become fully accommodated. During this time, it's ideal to engage in social activities that will help you make friends and embrace your new environment.

1. Homesickness – Common Amongst Freshers

a) Signs of Homesickness

In addition to the mood swings, sleep and appetite loss we spoke about earlier, there are a few other signs that you're going through college homesickness:

  • A sense of loneliness
  • The desire to leave
  • Loss of concentration

You can also experience nausea, fatigue or even the instinct to isolate yourself from your peers.

b) Take the Time to Adapt

Nevertheless, the symptoms will subside in time. Not only do you need to be patient for college homesickness to pass, but you also have to make an effort to adapt properly. Even though social gatherings are probably the last thing you have on your mind, consider these types of activities for easing into uni life.

2. Things to Know Before Uni

a) Keep Your Expectations Realistic

Just as essential is prepping for uni life. First and foremost in the process is staying realistic with your expectations. Yes, it will be totally different from your hometown life. No, it won't be like all the Hollywood college movies. In a nutshell, uni life is usually a blend between the two, depending on what kind of activities you want to take part in. You should be aware that your old friends won't be physically by your side, but that it is an opportunity to meet new friends you have lots in common with.

b) Don't Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself

Starting a new school is almost always overwhelming. Add that to moving to a different area for university and you have quite the situation on your hands. It is imperative that you don't fall prey to panic attacks and that you don't put pressure on yourself. No matter how challenging it might seem to adapt at first, you should always take baby steps. Help is always there for those who seek it.

c) Bring Comfort Items from Home

A wonderful way to fight back college homesickness is making your surroundings a bit homier, so to speak. Don't hesitate to pack some items that will make you feel like home in your dorm. Here are a few examples of comfort items that can help:

  • Photos with friends and family
  • Favourite blanket
  • Books, posters or other similar comfort objects

Chapter 3: Ways to Combat College Homesickness

Now that we have covered the basics of college homesickness let's talk about the solutions. What helps the most is meeting new people and making the most of campus life. There are plenty of extracurricular activities you can engage in, fit for different types of personalities and hobbies:

  • Go to campus events
  • Get into a team spot
  • Join a uni club
  • Volunteer for local organisations
  • Get involved in uni politics
  • Find work on campus
  • Join a fraternity or sorority if your university has one

1. Stay in Touch with Loved Ones

a) Calls & Visits – Regular, Not Often

Naturally, it helps to keep in touch with your family and friends to combat homesickness. However, there is a fine line between checking in a few times a week or calling your mum 3-4 times every day. Even though you might have the urge to contact your loved ones continuously, it might do more harm than good. Ideally, talk to your friends and family once every 2-3 days, or even once a week if you can.

b) Talk About Your Issues

When you do speak to your loved ones, don't be ashamed to tell them about your challenges. What is especially effective is talking with hometown friends that are also in their first year of uni in another city. They are most likely going through the same feelings that you are, and it helps to share thoughts, advice and comfort words between yourselves.

2. Explore Your New World

a) Make Friends at Uni

We can't stress how important it is to make new friends when you get to university. In addition to the new information, resources and education you have at hand, it's an excellent opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and spark friendships that can last a lifetime. Go to the events organised by your university and introduce yourself to students you feel you can connect with. The same goes for sports teams, theatre clubs and any other on-campus activities.

b) Decorate & Personalise Your Room

Part of making your new home actually feel like home is putting some thought and attention into decorating. Aside from comfort items, feel free to decorate your dormitory to make you feel cosy and comfortable at all times. From your university's colours to posters of your favourite bands, the sky is the limit for the creativity you can put into your room.

c) Stay Healthy & Fit

There's a Latin saying that's something along the lines of – Mens sana in corpore sano. It roughly translates as healthy mind in a healthy body. In other words, you need to take care of both the exterior and the interior to lead a healthy life. Talk to your school's administration about sports and other athletic activities you can engage in on campus. If you feel you're not yet ready to join a team, you can begin with morning jogs to kick start your day. Also, make sure your comfort food is healthy (no fast food!).

Chapter 4: Mental Exercises to Combat Homesickness

1. Have you Tried Meditation?

a) Mindfulness & Yoga

Regardless of how apprehensive you may be about meditation, yoga or other practices of the sort, you should try before you judge. Many students feel that meditating or yoga helps them calm their nerves, see and think clearly and embrace their day with fresh energy. Practise mindfulness and living the present – it will help you manage nostalgia and other tear-jerking memories that come with college homesickness.

b) Breathing Exercises to Relieve Negative Feelings

Did you know that simply breathing properly can help you calm down? From yogis to psychologists, outnumbered specialists swear by the positive impact of breathing techniques in stressful situations. An example is Equal Breathing, which can be performed like this:

  • Inhale through your nose for four seconds
  • Exhale through your nose for the same amount of time

Read more about this breathing exercise and others presented in TIME magazine here.

2. Document Positive Moments

a) Keep a Journal

Journaling is a fantastic way to keep track of your progress, especially if you are going through an emotionally fragile stage like college homesickness. Don't be afraid to pour your soul out on paper, as it will also help you relieve the negative emotions you keep bottled up. Make a daily habit of journaling and re-read your entries periodically to see your progression.

b) Take Pictures

While you're welcome to hang pictures with your family and hometown friends on your dorm walls, it's just as important to leave room for new memories. Document magical moments with your new friends on campus and hang them right next to your older photos. It will help you see the good in any situation, both in your hometown and at uni.

Chapter 5: Learn about Homesickness

1. It's Temporary

Even though it doesn't seem like it, college homesickness won't last forever. In a few months, you should be completely adapted to your new environment, enjoying student life with your new friends. No matter if you're an undergrad or studying for your masters or doctorate, you mustn't forget that college homesickness is normal and temporary.

2. Everyone Feels Just the Same

You'd be surprised to find out just how many of your peers are going through the feelings you are. To see for yourself, ask your roommate if they're experiencing college homesickness. It's most likely that their answer will be yes. Work together to find solutions that are effective by bouncing around ideas and initiatives.

Chapter 6: Stay Positive

1. Be Grateful & Patient

Most important of all – stay positive. Having a depressive mindset and letting college homesickness get the best of you won't lead to anything worthwhile. You can practise positivity by cultivating gratitude:

  • Appreciate that you have access to higher education
  • Be grateful that your family and friends support you in your new adventure
  • Be kind to your peers and make new friends

Of course, patience is the icing on the cake. All great accomplishments take time.

2. Ask for Help When Needed

Last but certainly not least, don't ever hesitate to ask for help. College homesickness can make you feel at a loss, but you have access to free resources and quality help if you need any extra guidance managing your schoolwork.

And have fun! During university, you'll have some of the best years of your life if you make the most of it!