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How to deal with homesickness at university

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For many students, moving away to university will be the first time living without their families, which can be an incredibly daunting prospect. It’s a big step for everyone and it’s natural to feel homesick. In fact, according to the National Union of Students (NUS), around 70% of freshers experience homesickness within the first few days of starting university, so you’re definitely not alone.

Feeling homesick can affect anyone, whether you’re a UK or international student, and we’ve compiled some of our top tips on how to deal with homesickness at university to help ease any anxiety you might be experiencing.

A student looking down at her mobile phone

1. Keep yourself busy and get out of the house

One of the best things you can do to combat feelings of homesickness is to get out of the house and fully immerse yourself in all the great things about living as a student. Although it may be tempting, especially for introverts, staying cooped up inside on your own for long periods of time will likely make you feel worse, so embrace your new-found independence and keep yourself busy.

Make some new friends by getting to know your housemates a bit better and speaking to people on your course because chances are, you’ll end up meeting people who feel exactly the same as you! Get involved with social events and attend Freshers Fair – sign up to some clubs or societies to pursue a hobby while getting to know some new people. If you’re studying, even just being around other people can help, so why not head to the library for a change of scenery?

2. Bring some home comforts with you

Make your new bedroom feel like your second home by bringing a few things with you to university. Whether it’s photos of family and friends, a favourite blanket, or even a teddy, keeping things familiar and cosy by adding some personal touches will help you to create a relaxing, comfortable space to live in and hopefully stop you feeling so homesick.

3. Explore your new home

Moving away for university can feel overwhelming, but it’s also exciting having the chance to explore a new town, city, or even country, which will likely be your home for at least the next three years. Take this opportunity to familiarise yourself with your new surroundings – organise some day trips with your housemates, go for a walk, or discover your nearest local café – and you’ll start to feel more at home in no time. Make sure you explore your new campus too!

If you’re an international student, try to ease some of your homesickness by getting to know more about British culture. Whether it’s trying new food or discovering local landmarks, getting out of your comfort zone can be a good thing and help you settle in quicker. Some of your fellow students are likely to be locals, so ask them advice on some of the best things to do in the area. If you’re joining us at Sunderland, check out the top things to do in our city.

Students sitting around a restaurant table and laughing while enjoying some food and drinks

4. Keep in touch with family and friends

With so many advancements in modern technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with your family and friends back home when you’re away at university, whether it’s a chat over FaceTime, a phone call, or just a quick text message to check in.

While it’s vital to maintain communication with your loved ones to stay connected and feel supported, don’t fall into the trap of relying on them too much, as it will only heighten your feelings of homesickness. We’d especially recommend trying to keep some distance right at the beginning of term, so you’ll gradually get more used to being away from them, focusing on enjoying your life at university. When you do reach out, set time limits on how long you chat, and remember, they’ll always be there to return to when you go home for the holidays.

Similarly, another way to deal with feeling homesick is to take regular breaks from social media. Constantly checking what your friends at home are up to might make you feel sad about missing out, so turn off your notifications and try to live in the here and now!

5. Get some exercise

Another great way of getting over homesickness is to make sure you get plenty of exercise. Not only will you feel the physical benefits, but the releasing of endorphins is scientifically proven to ease the effects of anxiety. While it might be tempting to lie on the sofa binge-watching Netflix and gorging on a takeaway, exercising is undoubtedly a more effective method of distracting you from feeling homesick.

Incorporating fitness into your routine will give you something positive to focus on and can also be the perfect opportunity to get to know new people, whether it’s joining your university gym, attending a fitness class, or signing up for a sports society. Even going for a walk in the park with your housemates could make all the difference.

Three students smiling whilst walking through a leafy park on a sunny day

6. Talk to someone

If you’ve tried all the above, or simply want to confide in someone, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. It’s better to reach out to somebody to talk about your feelings of homesickness rather than suffer in silence, so speak to a member of your family or close friend or get in touch with your university Wellbeing Team. Whatever makes you feel comfortable, there are plenty of options available to you and you’re never alone.

Find out more about the wellbeing services we provide at the University of Sunderland.

Published: 17 July 2023