Wednesday, 4 November 2015

There's No Place Like Home

As Christmas things start to take over the shops and the nights grow darker, longer and colder, every student starts to feel that twinge of homesickness creeping on.

Now that the excitement of Fresher’s is long gone and the work load is piling on, the rush of student life seems to lull a bit giving us all time to think of home.

You might suddenly feel guilty for not keeping in touch as much as you had first planned, or even for forgetting all about that magical place where the dishes get done for you and you never run out of clean clothes, and the people that dwell there.

If you have managed to survive the academic year this far without experiencing some form of home sickness, whether you’re a seasoned student or just generally used to living and acting independently, the chances are it won’t be too much longer until the home town blues catch you up!

It is perfectly normal to get homesickness, up to 70% of UK home students suffer from it (according to the NUS). In a moment I’ll be sharing some of my top tips for beating homesickness, but firstly I just wanted to say that although it’s normal to be homesick it’s also completely normal not to! 30% of students claim not to experience any form of homesickness while away studying, which is quite a chunk of you really. So there is no need to feel guilty or odd for not missing home as much as everybody else just as there’s no shame in being moved by tears over how long it’s been since you hugged your momma and papa.

There are lots of reasons for feeling homesick, and lots of reasons not to. I’m sure I don’t need to list them, just don’t be caught unawares. Feelings have a tendency to jump up on you and can be triggered by a variety of different things – a bad day, the stress of uni work or the smell of your flatmate’s home cooked dinner.

It’s coming up to that time of year when everything can just feel like a bit too much. (Don’t worry I have some more posts planned for the run up to exam time!) I know I really struggled in my first year, and to be honest I’m doing all that much better now! The stress as coursework deadlines start getting handed out plus all the chores that come along with living independently had me feeling pretty overwhelmed and missing home A LOT. It’s hard to know what to prioritise; laundry, cooking real meals, cleaning, visiting home, talking to friends/family, oh and what about a social life, that’s important to maintain too! How much time are we allowed to give to all these other things if we want to do well in our studies! It’s all so complicated, confusing and stressful! So who can blame us for missing those home comforts and simpler times? But don’t worry, stop stressing! Everybody goes through it at some point, to some extent, and more importantly makes it through the other side!

I’ve talked enough about the problem, now to share some tips for solving it!

1.       Decide how much contact with home works for you.

This is a tricky one as I can’t really say too much in the way of advice as everyone’s different. Just beware of how much contact you’re having with home and if it’s working for you or not. Too much contact with home can make you miss it more than you might do otherwise. Sometimes you need to be strict with yourself, or those who are chasing you. Or not having enough contact could leave you feeling pretty isolated and alone.

2.       Join in!

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Societies are usually open to new members at any time in the year. So if you think too much time alone might have something to do with your feeling down, get out there and do something you enjoy, or even try something new! Not only will it take your mind off missing home, and give you a break from studying, it’s also a great way to meet new people and make friends. So give it a go and get more out of the whole uni experience!

3.       Establish a routine. Make an action plan!

Once you allow yourself to become lazy you’ve lost the battle, and it can be pretty hard to get out of that rut. It might be that your sleeping pattern is suffering from fresher’s or your meals and day-to-day activities are all over the place – not have a good routine can have a real bad effect on your overall well-being and leave you feeling drained and sluggish (which is not good when you have all that work to keep up with!). Set a daily routine that works for you, allocating a bed time, meal times, study sessions and social time building up around your weekly lectures. It could be hard to stick to at first but you’re most likely to feel a lot better for it in the long run!

This can also allow you to pencil in your calls home, so you know just how much time you’re spending keeping up to date with what’s happening in your absence. If you have your days plotted with activities you have less time to dwell on it all, and can start living in the now!

4.       Don’t fall into the trap of spending all your time in your room.

As a student spending all your free time in your room is the easiest trap to fall into, but try and fight it! Spending too much time within the same four walls just isn’t healthy. When it comes to studying head out to a library (if you don’t like your uni one try the local) or your favourite coffee shop. The added bonus is you’re less likely to spend all that time procrastinating when you’re out! Win-win!

Basically if you can go out and get a change of scenery and some fresh air rather than stewing in both your stink and your misery while watching hours upon hours of Netflix, you’re probably going to feel better for it.

5.       Bring items that you find comforting.

It’s all about making your house or flat, or whatever university accommodation you have, a home. Since it can be pretty hard to warm to a place if it hasn’t got any of your own personal touches, get decorating. You might need to double check your residencies contract to see what you’re allowed to do in the way of putting up pictures (sometimes even blu-tack is forbidden). But whatever you can or can’t do, just do your best to make your new digs as homely as possible. Whether it’s laying out all your favourite teddies, posters, cushions, photos, action figures or putting up fairy lights, get decorating! This one has to be the easiest and quickest way to help ease the transition.

6.       Stay positive and healthy.

It might sound a little obvious or even patronising, but it’s the easiest thing to forget to prioritise.

University may be a pretty overwhelming and stressful time but it should also be a very exciting one! So stay positive and be proud of all your accomplishments to date as well as all the new things you’re learning (whether that be through your studies or about the house). Remember that no matter how low you might feel now, you’ll soon adapt and you’re not alone! Everyone goes through it, in fact you’ll probably find the majority of your fellow students are experiencing exactly the same feelings.

Do your best not to let your current mood effect other areas of your life too much. Remember to eat real meals, you’re not likely to get all the nutrients from beans on toast or supernoodles and you’d be a fool to underestimate the effect food can have on your mood! Join a gym or sports society, or if your budget won’t allow that just go for a run.

Balance is important. Plus if you start to gain weight from all that comfort food then it’s just another thing to play on your mind and your self-esteem could take a big hit. 

7.       Explore your surroundings.

Okay maybe there isn’t really any place like home, but your new home (if you can ever start to really think of it as a ‘home’) might have some pretty cool things to offer too. Try and get to know your surroundings, the longer everything feels alien the longer you’ll feel out of place. Whether it’s museums, heritage centres, play zones or shops that interest you, explore what your university city/town has to offer that maybe home doesn’t.

Either have a google or go and visit the local tourist information centre to get some ideas. Again if your budget won’t allow you to be too adventurous then just a simple walk around, exploring your local parks or back streets could reveal a lot. You never know what magical find you could stumble upon.

8.       Don’t feel bad for taking time out.

You time is important, as is self-care! Simples.

9.       Don’t overdo it. Distractions don’t work.

This applies to everything. Studies, home visits or social life. I’ve said it once, and I shall say it again, balance is important!! So keep checking yourself, and remember to schedule some you time in – a thing a lot of us can forget.

10.   Keep going – set goals.  

Personally I always have to know when my next visit home will be and once I have the dates in my diary, no matter how far off they might be, I experience a sense of peace of mind plus I have something to look forward to! I miss home less when I know exactly when I’ll be there next, and if I do start to feel slightly homesick I can always reassure myself with ‘Oh it’s only 2 weeks, 5 days or whatever.’ Having a constant definite date is just something I find really comforting.

So if you think this is something that might help ease your mind then grab your diary (or go buy one!) and start plotting in all your term dates, coursework deadlines etc. so you can mark out the best times for a visit home and then book them up! You could save a bunch in train/bus fares for booking early too!

11.   Invite friends to visit.

Often going home prematurely can set off some pretty bad homesickness, therefore you’re better off encouraging your friends/family to visit you when possible. This also gives you a great opportunity to show off your new place.

12.   Don’t build it up in your head. Talk to someone.

A flatmate, old friend, parent or professional, don’t let your worries fester. Talking it over can be a great help, and enable you to take a step back from it all. 75% of students prefer talking to a peer about their problems, but if you don’t feel you have anybody then your university will always have support available.

13.   See what support is available.

Generally universities have great support services in place for their students, it might take a little bit of research but you can soon find out what options are open to you.

I truly hope that this post helps with whatever form of homesickness you might be facing. If you have any experiences you wouldn’t might sharing then please do! Also if you have any tips that I didn’t include feel free to get in touch by commenting below or reaching out through any of my social media accounts.

Until next time!

If you enjoyed this post then you might like to have a read of The Newest Trend of Detox and Teeth Whitening: Oil Pulling or Cruelty-Free vs. Vegan.

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