During the run up to starting at Warwick, I could hardly contain my excitement. I was desperate to move out of home and embark upon my new independent, free life. As an introverted, socially anxious person, I knew I was going to struggle with homesickness to some degree. But, I pushed these worries aside, instead imagining how glamorous university was going to be. As a result, I was unprepared for the fact that grappling with homesickness would be a major feature of my first two years at Warwick.
When my parents dropped me off on the Saturday before term started, I was so happy until the moment they left. Suddenly the reality of being alone hit me and I had no idea what to do with myself. I stood around in my room with the door open, trying to unpack, feeling so awkward and self conscious. Eventually I got talking to people and we went out to the Freshers’ Fair followed by an evening at the Copper Rooms. The next couple of days were a whirlwind of getting to know people, unpacking, pre drinking and going out. In the kitchen, with others, I was enjoying myself. But in my room, by myself, I was a mess. I couldn’t sit still, I still felt like people were watching me as I could hear everyone in the kitchen and the corridors talking. I developed a constant need to socialise to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything. I was desperate to prove to both myself and others that I was a confident and sociable person. I stopped knowing how to function in my own company, as I had always been so comfortable doing at home.
The strangest part was that there wasn’t actually anything going wrong at university. I loved the campus, my course, my accommodation, I made great friends
On the third day, I remember throwing up in my room and feeling so overwhelmed. I didn’t tell anyone and just whispered down the phone to my Mum in tears, afraid my flatmates would hear me. Almost immediately I booked train tickets home for the end of the second week. Things continued like this for most of the Freshers Fortnight. Getting through each day seemed like a mammoth task and I would breathe a sigh of relief at 5pm, having almost made it through. I would cry on the phone to my parents multiple times a day, but half way through the second week, my dad told me enough was enough and I was banned from phoning them until I came home.
For the first time since arriving at Warwick, I eased up. By not talking to them, my family was not on my mind 24/7 and I actually made it through Thursday and Friday without crying. The strangest part was that there wasn’t actually anything going wrong at university. I loved the campus, my course, my accommodation, I made great friends.
My mum encouraged me to speak to someone and get help, but I refused
After those first two weeks, my homesickness did ease up and I felt better, but it didn’t magically disappear. Throughout term one, the anxiety made me lose my appetite and I lost a lot of weight. Towards the end of the Christmas holidays, the thought of another term back at uni seemed awful. My mum encouraged me to speak to someone and get help, but I refused. Eventually she sent me some videos explaining Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and these helped me hugely to understand that my emotions and happiness were in my own hands. I stopped calling home so often, and tried to stay at uni as long as I could without going home. Nevertheless, occasional trips home are necessary for me to recharge and rest, away from the exhausting constant socialising that is necessary when living with friends.
Learning to keep myself busy and get into a routine was the biggest lesson in dealing with homesickness. Joining more societies and just getting out of the flat and going for a walk rather than moping when I felt overwhelmed gave me something to think about other than my mental state. It was easy to skimp on seminar reading when I wasn’t feeling myself, but sometimes little things like actually going to the library and immersing myself in my course helped to remind myself why I chose to be at Warwick. Friends often make comments about why I always seem so busy and spend more hours working, but for me it is a great coping strategy, and helps to normalise things for me.
I wish I had sought more help when the situation was at its worst, but nevertheless, I am incredibly proud of how far I have come
Having finished second year, I have found ways to make university feel much more like normal life. Many days I still wake up with the same feeling of dread as during Freshers. Other times, I catch myself out, surprised at just how okay I feel. If you are a fresher experiencing homesickness, know that no matter how hard it is, it will pass with time and you will find ways to cope. But if it’s really bad, don’t feel ashamed to seek help. Intense homesickness can often cause depression and anxiety. I wish I had sought more help when the situation was at its worst, but nevertheless, I am incredibly proud of how far I have come since that first tough day two years ago.