Michelle Osborne gives her top tips for surviving homesickness at university
Freshers’ week is known as a week for partying. A time to get drunk, meet new people, or hook up with strangers: it’s a time to go wild.
It’s also a time of transition. For many students, it’s their first time being away from home and having responsibilities, like budgeting and cooking. It can feel very lonely without family and friends and can feel even worse when it seems like everybody else is having the time of their lives.
If you’re reading this thinking: “that’s me!”, then don’t worry: you are not alone. Although there is the expectation to have the time of your life, a lot of people actually hate freshers’ week. Many people don’t enjoy partying, meeting new people, or being away from their hometown. It’s incredibly hectic and some crave a more relaxed time at university, rather than endless nights out.
Two years ago, I had my freshers’ week and absolutely hated it. I had never been away from my parents for long and I have never liked change. Clubbing was definitely not my favourite pastime, so the idea of going out every night with people I didn’t know scared me. I also couldn’t get with anybody as I still had a boyfriend back home. Being away from everything I loved was frightening and, to me, it seemed like no one else was struggling in the same way.
Feeling lonely is one of the most horrible experiences, and it doesn't necessarily help all that much even when you do know other people can relate. There are ways to get through it, though - take it from me! Having gone through an uncomfortable freshers’ week and homesickness at other points, I’ve put together some “Dos and Don’ts” for any freshers struggling during this transitional period.
DO go out as much as you can. Of course, this is easier if you enjoy clubbing, but it is possible to fill your days without enjoying nights out. During my freshers’ week, I got involved with a lot of the organised events during the day. There are plenty of daytime events ranging from quizzes, vintage sales, journalism and sports, and hopefully there will be more opportunities for in-person activities this year. There are plenty of opportunities to meet like-minded people that will also distract you from thinking about how strange this whole freshers' experience is!
DON'T go home as soon as possible. I know it can seem like the most preferable solution, but it won’t help you in the long run. By returning home too early, you’re disrupting the settling process in your new flat. Unfortunately, you can’t be at home forever and your leaving day is always going to be traumatic. Instead, book your tickets home for later in the semester, around November or Christmas time: it’s close enough that you can look forward to it but long enough to get settled in and feel proud of yourself for staying.
DO keep in contact with loved ones. While I wouldn't recommend running back to them as soon as things get a little tough, you should continue to keep in touch with family and friends over the phone. They can offer advice or just distract you for a while if you’re feeling lonely. It is a good reminder that there are people who love you, even though you may be a few (hundred) miles away.
DON'T ruin your healthy habits. It may be tempting to stop going on your morning runs or eating three meals a day, but these are the sort of things that will keep you going. Routines are great for keeping you happy in difficult times. To look after your mind, you must look after your body.
DO invite other people to do things. Secretly, everybody loves being invited out by other people to socialise, and you should try and be the one to initiate it. The more invitations you give, the more you'll receive. Whether it’s a night out or a daytime coffee, any event can be the start of a new friendship. There is also no pressure! You may meet once, or you may become friends for life.
DON'T worry too much! Everybody has wobbles at some point and there are always ways to get through it, and people around you who will be feeling the same. It’s important to remember: freshers' is just one week out of four years, and everything will become more normal and settled as classes start. University is a learning curve for us all: go at your own pace, and enjoy it where you can!
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