Making The Invisible Visible

Every September thousands of students embark on their journey to university, some leaving their homes for the first time while some leave their home country’s, both nervous, excited and a little scared.

Following your dreams and getting a good education can give you the best opportunity in life but all good things come at a cost. The cost for many will be homesickness, as records suggest that between 50 and 70 per cent of first year students suffer from some extent of homesickness in their first two or three weeks.

For International students this homesickness can be harder to deal with if there is no one physically there to support you and although many travel home for the holidays, the three-month wait can be a struggle, especially in first year.

Molly Bray, 19 from Hong Kong studies at Fashion Design and Business Studies at Brighton University. She moved away from Hong Kong three years ago and when asked about what she missed most about home she said, “getting to see my family and friends, I think it’s more about the people that you’re with than the place” Although Molly is used to being away she states that; “When I’m having a particularly hard day I miss home the most and when I’m not as busy and preoccupied.”

From this interview Molly put a lot of emphases on the importance of keeping in touch with your friends from back home, as her biggest concern was that she would loose them. And believes it is essential to find a balance between keeping in touch with friends and family and opening up to new friends and opportunities

Talking to people close to you is really important when you’re feeling homesick, as they may be able to offer you some advice or just be there for you. Molly advises “talking to friends who are going through the same situation, I find it quite hard talking to my parents about it because then they get upset, also starting a little countdown or how long it will be until I am home”.

She suggests that homesickness does get easier with time by saying “The first year I Facetimed my parents everyday, the second it was every other day and now in my third year it’s probably three times a week.”

National student’s homesickness tends to be more overlooked since they have the option to travel home more. But since some students live as far as 8 hours away from their home, it is important to acknowledge their homesickness just as much.

Charlotte Clark, 21 from Darlington is a student at Sunderland University and moved away from home three years ago. She regularly takes trips back home as she loves “seeing my family and my dog and chilling by the fire, I live in the countryside which is really pretty and tranquil.” Although she regularly talks to her family she misses home the most when “when I haven’t been home in a while and my mam send’s me pictures on Facebook.”

Charlotte advises people who are planning on leaving home to “fully know whether it will be good for you or not, and how far away you want to go. I moved to Sunderland so I could get home easily, whereas my sister moved 6 hours away because she likes to be more independent.”

What was noticeable about both these students is that both their biggest worries about starting university friends and whether they’d make any or loose any. It is so important to maintain and create friendships throughout university, as your friends become your biggest support network.

The national union for students believes homesickness can affect anyone and shares some advice on the matter. The first suggestion giving is to decorate your room with familiar things from home such as photographs, bedding and pieces that have sentimental value for you. This will make you settle into your new environment much easier.

They also encourage you to “be realistic about what to expect from university life. Sometimes not everything falls into place at once, but many students go on to have a fantastic time once they adjust. “ Some weeks will be harder than others as you first settle in but you will soon adjust to a routine. How ever homesick you feel the NUS advises you not to “rush into any decisions about leaving, as things could still improve, but do talk it over with a tutor, student welfare officer, or counsellor.”

For more advice on homesickness and how to deal with it check out the NUS website at: http://www.nus.org.uk/en/advice/freshers-and-settling-in/homesickness-can-affect-anyone/