The Independent recently published an article highlighting that, according to research group Atos, the 13th of October is the day when the largest number of University students travel home. They collected this data by looking at the use of 16-25 railcards registered by people from non-University towns. The general consensus is that a large number of students feel homesick at this time in the term-time calendar; so homesick, in fact, that they even feel the need to travel home midweek. This year, the 13th of October was a Tuesday. With regard to Glasgow University, this means that many students are going home only three weeks into the semester. So, does that mean that homesickness is a real problem for Glasgow students?
This is my first year at Glasgow University, but I’ve been a student before at another university, studying a different course. I ended up hating both the university and the course, so I dropped out after a year and then worked for another year, whilst still living in the city I had moved to. In that time, I gained a lot of valuable life experience and worked out what I really wanted to do. When I became a fresher for the second time, I knew what I was up against and felt much more confident about moving away from home again after a very long summer. Even with this new-found confidence, however, I still decided to go home on the 22nd of October, just over a week after the day of mass exodus from university towns that Atos predicted.
There may be a few different reasons why students would choose to go home just a few weeks into the semester, many of which apply to freshers in particular. The first time I moved away, I went home a lot during the first few months for my driving lessons. Others go home because of weekend jobs, or to see their partners. Many others go home because they are genuinely homesick. Perhaps it’s because, after a long summer, students are confronted by a whole lot of new people and new challenges. The inescapable 'freshers’ flu' might also have something to answer for: it would, surely, make anyone want to run home to their own bed and parental sympathy. Moving away from home for the first time can be really difficult, especially if you have come to the big city from a small town or village. Some students are just 'home birds'; some friends I’ve made at university go home almost every weekend. For most students from Scotland, going home is fairly easy to do, but for those from further afield, going home is nothing like as cheap or as easy. They have to stay until the end of the semester, and ride out their homesickness alone.
Moving out can be a difficult transition for many people, and homesickness is one of those things that only gets better with time. Even those who are in their final year of university often need the comfort and safety that being at home brings, and people shouldn’t be judged for that. The first semester of every year is about adjusting to new classes and facing challenges which you haven’t had to worry about all summer. I hardly think it’s surprising that many students need a quick break near the beginning, especially those who are perhaps more introverted or anxious.
University is where the majority of us grow up. It's no surprise, therefore, that dazed and stressed students flock home from time to time. University is our last chance to indulge our childlike urge to be cared for. Perhaps, upon leaving university and trying to live in the 'real world', the 13th of October will fade into insignificance.