Homesickness

Homesickness is a normal experience during times of change

You may feel worried because you have moved away from home and are separated from your familiar surroundings. Being homesick is often a sign that you have happy, healthy relationships with people back at home and that you are missing these important people. Remember that when you are feeling homesick you are more likely to see the negative in the new lifestyle. Have a look at our Transition to University webpage to help you understand about the associated challenges when you start university.

It is really important to remember that you will not be the only person feeling homesick and that it doesn't in any way mean you are inadequate. It is understandable to have feelings of homesickness when you have moved from a relatively secure and small set of relationships to become, what may feel like, an anonymous member of a six thousand plus community where you may feel that you know no one. Many students coming to university feel homesick and don't quite know how to cope with the resulting emotions. This is entirely normal and usually passes within the first few weeks or months. Try not to be harsh on yourself for experiencing something that is completely normal. In fact, by accepting that these feelings are normal you will usually feel better quicker.

If you do feel homesick or just a little bit shaky in your first few weeks of term, the Wellbeing Team offer Welcome Wobbles sessions where you can have a chat with someone in a safe space about how you're feeling.  Have a look at the Welcome Wobbles page to find out when these sessions run.

Typical feelings linked to homesickness

  • Loneliness
  • Sadness
  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Doubt

Physical signs of feeling homesick

  • Crying
  • Being sick
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Unpredictable waves of emotion
  • Hard to concentrate
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headaches

Thoughts associated with homesickness

  • I long for home
  • I can’t stop thinking of X
  • I miss my friends so much
  • I’m so lonely
  • I feel unhappy
  • I just hate it here
  • I’ve got no one to talk to
  • I am not coping
  • I hate having to live with people I don’t know
  • I do not know who I am here
  • People here really do not like me
  • I don’t belong here
  • I want to cry all the time

What can you do to help yourself?

  • Personalise your new room.
  • Do the same things you enjoyed at home but also try something new.
  • Get involved with your flatmates, with your course mates, join a society or look elsewhere in the city to get involved in activities that you enjoy.
  • Try to establish a routine as soon as possible. The fuller your days are, the less time you will have to feel homesick or lonely. You could try;
    • Volunteering
    • Exercise - this is a great way to boost your mood. This might be to join an organised group or build in exercise to your daily routine e.g. a brisk walk in the morning or before dinner. Make sure you check out the social sport opportunities at the Students' Union WELL-U programme or YSJ Active who run a variety of fitness classes. 
    • Join a society at the Students' Union - there is something for everyone!
  • Write down all the positive things about living independently in a new place – your freedom, meeting new friends etc.
  • Give yourself time to adjust - you don't have to get everything right straight away, nor do you have to rush into making major decisions about staying or leaving.
  • Remember you may feel homesick at any point during university. It is not just something that happens in the first few weeks.

Looking after yourself

  • Remember to eat properly - It is vital for you to have enough energy to participate and concentrate as well as looking after your physical and mental health. 
  • Make sure you are sleeping - If you are tired it is much harder to manage difficult emotions.
  • Keep in good contact with people from home but also give yourself time to get involved at university. Why not arrange a trip home several weeks into the Semester (or whatever feels right for you) so that you have something to look forward to.
  • Be realistic - don’t put yourself under pressure to be happy and successful all the time.
  • Acknowledge your feelings and accept them. Tell yourself the feelings will pass, they almost always do. Remind yourself that the vast majority of your peers are feeling or have felt like you. They, like you, just might not talk about it.
  • Recognise that you may feel both homesick and be having a great time. By enjoying yourself you are not being disloyal to those you miss.
  • Remind yourself of all the reasons why you chose to study in York and think about the ways in which your studies will enhance your future career prospects.

Places you can get support

If you stop being able to do your usual social and academic activities, seek professional help either from your doctor, or the Wellbeing Team in Student Services.

In addition to our usual weekday Wellbeing drop-in sessions, we run daily Welcome Wobbles sessions from Monday 11th - Friday 22nd September. If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like a quiet space to talk about how you are feeling then come for a confidential 1-2-1 session to talk things through. No need to book, just ask at the Student Advice Desk in Holgate:

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 10-12noon and 3-5pm
Tuesdays and Thursdays 10-12noon and 1-3pm 

If the difficulty of academic work has come as a shock then seek help from your academic tutor, or book a session with the Study Development Team in Student Services to help improve your academic skills.

If you are considering leaving, this is a big decision so make sure you talk to people first. Aside from family you might want to speak to your tutor, the Careers and Employability Team, a Chaplain, or the Wellbeing Team

Some things that might not help you include;

  • ...comparing university to home.
  • ...going home on your first weekend or two. Is going home helpful or does the constant re-adjustment make you feel worse?
  • ...getting a family member to visit you for more than a brief period during your first few weeks.
  • ...giving up – feeling homesick tends to make people less motivated to do things. If you don’t do things you are unlikely to enjoy and connect with university making it more likely that you will feel homesick.
  • ...seeing homesickness as a sign of weakness. It isn't, it is a normal part of the transition process.

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