For most people, starting university is their first experience of living away from home. Staying in halls is an amazing way to transition to independent living: learning to cook for yourself, doing your own laundry and generally managing your time however you like, aside from the time you spend studying. While this can be such a freeing experience, it is also a massive change and can come as quite a shock to the system. Keeping in contact with old friends and family is so worthwhile during the chaos of your first year, and, in fact, during your whole degree.
Eventually the questions of “what course do you do?” and “which accommodation are you in?” run dry
It’s true when they say that you’ll make friends for life at university, but what they don’t always tell you is how intense it can be trying to make a whole new group of friends at once. Eventually the questions of “what course do you do?” and “which accommodation are you in?” run dry, and you just want to skip the small talk and get on comfortably with the people around you. It’s perfectly normal to feel like this and to miss having close friends and family around, I certainly felt like this at times.
Despite the incredible time I’d had at the start of university, by the end of fresher’s week I felt really overwhelmed. I needed some familiarity, to be around someone who I didn’t have to try to be friends with. With home being over three hours away and video call not quite giving me the homely experience I was longing for, I hopped on the next 12X to Coventry. One of my best friends from college was studying in Coventry and despite having made no plans to see each other so soon, I was so glad to have him nearby. Just hanging out together, hearing his similar ‘fresher’s week’ stories and laughing about old anecdotes made me feel instantly better. I returned to campus feeling so refreshed and a lot less intimidated by the weeks ahead of meeting new faces and remembering new names.
Two days at home can still have the same refreshing impact as a week away does
From my experiences in first year, homesickness is more manageable than it feels at times. Just calling your parents or facetiming and visiting old friends in their new homes can be a cure. But if none of this does the trick, there’s nothing wrong with going home once in a while. If you’re blessed enough to be on a course with a reading week then why not use that mid-term break as an opportunity to go back home and bring your family up to speed on your university experience so far? Plus, if you live as far away as I do, then the three-hour train journey makes for great reading time to get ahead on the week’s workload. Even if you’re not given a reading week, try catching a train or bus home on a Friday afternoon and returning Monday morning when you have a free weekend. Two days at home can still have the same refreshing impact as a week away does.
We all know that we appreciate the good things better in moderation, so don’t spoil your time at home by going back too often
However, while keeping up with home friends and visiting family once in a while is a promising way to feel less homesick, it is possible to spend too much time doing so. You don’t want to get to the point where catching up with old friends is taking away from time making new ones. In the same way that going home too much would take away time from enjoying your time on campus, you need to be able to find a balance. Besides, we all know that we appreciate the good things better in moderation, so don’t spoil your time at home by going back too often; or your time at university by being away all the time.
Living somewhere new, away from familiarity, is difficult. How we each manage this struggle is unique: some people may not struggle at all while others find the change to be a big challenge. In the end, your focus should be on making the most of your time at university – even if that means going home once a term or calling your friends every week in order to do so.