Research shows that up to 70% of students will experience homesickness in their early days at university. It is a normal part of the experience of leaving home. However, even mild homesickness deserves careful attention. It is a reminder of our need to respect our physical and emotional needs at a time of stress. Yet, for some people the results of homesickness are quite disabling, and need additional support from parents, friends or professionals.

Typical physical and emotional symptoms:

 Typical thought patterns: 

So what is homesickness? Why am I experiencing it?

From the moment we are born we make emotional bonds with people, things and places. Gradually these bonds build up to form a hopefully stable environment. When we leave home, we experience a sense of real loss, a bit like grief if a friend or someone else close to us dies. Like grief this loss is natural and usually resolves itself over time. However, it is possible for this loss either to “get stuck” or to be particularly intense.

The problem is that many people tend to judge themselves harshly, because they think that they should be able to cope, but cannot. Homesickness is not a sign of weakness. You might be surprised as to how many other students feel like you do. Yet, homesickness can be astonishingly de-skilling. Work and concentration may not come easily.

Some groups of people are particularly prone to feel homesick. You are more likely to feel this if:

Everyone may go through different phases of settling in:

  1. Honeymoon Phase - excited by all the changes of a new environment
  2. Difficult/shock Phase - feeling nervous and uncertain; maybe experience physical symptoms (see above); maybe feel lonely, missing the familiarity of home relationships; maybe want to withdraw; feel tearful/irritated/upset
  3. Recovery Phase - begin to feel ok
  4. Independence/Autonomy Phase - enthusasitc again and able to integrate new experiences as trust develops to function well in the new situation. This can be a time of energy and creativity with widened experience bringing fresh opportunities.

These are some of the feelings you may experience:

Settling in to University

Moving through homesickness to settling in

There is a wide range of reactions to being away from home, particularly for the first time. While these may pass quickly, always be prepared to seek help from tutors, the University Counselling Service, the International Student Office or your GP. In the past, the following have been found helpful:

Useful resources

At the University of Warwick

   
  • Personal tutors or others in your department
   
Support for international students  
For students and staff at the University of Warwick  
   
For university students of all faiths and none  
Information and sources of support for international students  

Other Resources

   
  • Friends
   
Study Skills Package: a guide to preparing for university life  
Online booklet  
Online articles  
   
For International students who want to meet a family from the UK which is separate from the University  
Online booklet from Student Minds  
Available from the University Library:    
Book which includes practical tips for student life Sarah Moore, Maura Murphy

 

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