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Homesickness July 21, 2010

Posted by lapsippipm in Read n Learn.

Self-help Leaflets on Common Problems


What is homesickness?

Most people will have felt homesick at some time in their lives, perhaps when they were younger, and it is easy to forget just how overwhelming it can be.

Beginning life at university naturally generates both excitement and anxiety about the move, academic work, meeting new people. For some, this apprehension is quickly overcome as they adapt to a new environment; for others the transition takes longer and sometimes emerges as homesickness where there is a preoccupation with home-focused thoughts. There is a yearning for and grieving over the loss of what is familiar and secure: most often it is about the loss of people – family and friends – but it is also about the loss of places and routines, and the realisation that family life continues without you.

Those who experience homesickness might notice an increase in depressed feelings, anxiety, obsessive thoughts and minor physical ailments. Homesickness can often be distinguished from depression in this way – in depression sufferers find both university and home awful, whereas in homesickness university can feel awful while home may be seen in rose-tinted hues.

Some students will start by being mildly depressed and anxious several weeks before leaving home, in anticipation of the impending change. Others will be fine initially, and then to their surprise find themselves feeling homesick later in the academic year, perhaps after the Christmas break, or even at the start of their second academic year. But commonly it is the first few days or weeks after arriving at university which are the most difficult.

Students are not immune just because they have successfully experienced leaving home before. Vulnerability to feeling homesick is affected by:

  • the distance from home
  • a sense of anticlimax at finally arriving at university after working towards it for so long
  • whether the student was responsible for the decision to come to university
  • unhappiness due to expectations of university not being met
  • “job strain” – i.e. work overload and low control over it
  • whether family members at home are well and happy
  • contrast in lifestyle.

Those who are homesick often feel they have no control over their environment, and that they are not identified with it or committed to the university or their place in it.

Transition to University

There are two tasks involved in starting at university:

  1. leaving familiar things, people and places,
  2. adapting to new things, people and places.

Individuals have different levels of tolerance to change and have learned different ways of coping with new situations. But what can make transition so hard? In a familiar place people generally feel accepted and secure, and are therefore able to function and meet challenges successfully. Away from the familiar, they are without their usual sources of support, and in unfamiliar surroundings their tried and tested methods of coping and working are challenged; “failure” looms large and self esteem and confidence drops. Tasks which would normally have been taken in one’s stride, can suddenly seem quite a challenge, or even feel impossible.

What might help?

  1. Talk to someone. If you haven’t yet made friends here, then try a tutor, supervisor, chaplain, nurse or counsellor.
  2. Keep in good contact with the people you have left behind; arrange a time to go back to see them, perhaps after a few weeks. But also give yourself time within the university to begin to get involved here. Don’t let looking back actually hinder moving forward.
  3. Encourage friends and family to come and see you in your new setting.
  4. Remember that many other people will be sharing similar feelings, although you may assume that they are doing fine! (You can’t read their minds – just as they can’t read yours!)
  5. You are allowed to feel sad and homesick! You are also allowed to enjoy yourself – it isn’t being disloyal to those you miss!
  6. Be realistic about what to expect from student life and from yourself. Establish a balance between work and leisure: you are NOT expected to work ALL the time – you would soon burn out. On the other hand, if you don’t put in enough time on work, you can very quickly get behind, which only adds to the stresses!
  7. If work is proving too difficult, can you improve your study skills or your organisation of time and work so that you gain satisfaction from what you do? There may be people in your College or Department or the Student Union who can help in this area, such as your Tutor, Supervisor or the Welfare Officer
  8. Remember to get enough food and sleep! These affect us emotionally as well as physically.
  9. Make contacts and friends through shared activities such as sport or other interests. There are so many clubs and societies within the university and city, that you are very likely to find something that suits your particular interests. At the start of the academic year many new people will be joining – you are unlikely to be the only new person.
  10. Give yourself time to adjust: you don’t have to get everything right straight away. Nor do you have to rush into making major decisions about staying or leaving.
  11. Check out that you do really want to be at this university, in this college, studying this subject, at this time. Most people come through times of homesickness and go on to do well and enjoy their time at university. But for some it can be right to leave and take another direction. Those who do leave mostly find another course or university with which they are happy, perhaps after taking a year out. But if you are thinking along these lines, you need to take expert advice about the academic, career and financial implications. Speak to your tutor, the University Career Service and your LEA.
  12. If you stop being able to do normal social and academic things, seek professional help either from your doctor or the counselling service. Don’t wait until the problems have grown impossibly large!

We hope that some of these suggestions will prove useful. There are many things you can do to help yourself, but don’t hesitate in seeking out the help of others. Homesickness is not unusual – and it can be conquered!

source: http://www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/hsick.htm


Homesickness is a normal response to separation from people, places and things that give you a sense of belonging. Most people experience homesickness at some point in their lives. It is experienced if you move to a new town, start a new job, go away to college or study abroad. People who have never experienced homesickness before may suddenly feel overwhelmed and somehow inadequate. It is important to know that homesickness is normal, you are not inadequate, it does pass, and there are some things you can do which may help you get through some of those sad and lonely feelings. For example, it may be helpful to:

  • Admit that you are homesick. Much of what you know and find comforting is back home. Homesickness is a natural response to this sense of loss. Dr. Will S. Keim notes that you may go through stages of grieving, similar to Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ Five Stages of Grieving. At first you may feel shock and denial, then anger, then bargaining (“I’ll give it another week and then I’m leaving”), depression, and finally acceptance. This is a process of letting go of the past and taking up a new direction in life.
    Talk about it with a family member or friend who has had a similar experience. Seek out other people who may be having the same experience right now. (If you are a freshman in college, you can be assured there are others who are feeling similarly.) It takes strength to accept the fact that something is bothering you and to confront it.
  • Bring familiar items from home to your new location. Photos, plants, even stuffed animals help to give one a sense of continuity and ease the shock of a new environment.
    Decide whether the best policy for you is to have frequent contact with home (because contact makes you feel better), or little contact (because contact makes you feel worse).
    Familiarize yourself with your new surroundings. Walk around. You will feel more in control if you know where buildings, classes, services , etc. are located.
  • Invite people to explore your new surroundings with you. Making friends is a big step in alleviating homesickness.
    Establish a routine as soon as possible. The fuller your days are, the less time you will have to feel homesick or lonely.
    Examine your expectations. We’d all like to be popular, out-going, well-adjusted .but we’re not. Don’t let setting your goals too high or being perfectionistic create more trouble for you. Remember you are learning. Laugh at your mistakes.
  • Seek new opportunities. Seek out activities you are interested in where you might meet people that you would like. Remember there are other people out there experiencing the same feelings that your are.
  • Write family and friends. This can help you feel connected. It is also comforting to receive mail and know that you are missed. You may want to keep a journal as well. This can be a good way to get your feelings out rather than just ruminating about them.
  • Do Something! Don’t wait for homesickness to go away by itself. Trying to ignore it only increases the chances that it will resurface as fatigue, a cold, or a headache. If you feel none of your efforts are working, seek professional help. If you are on campus, the Counseling Center offers services at no extra charge (x5109). If you are studying abroad, contact your advisor for recommendations.

The Loyola College Counseling Center offers free counseling and referral service to Loyola students. Just call 617-5109 for an appointment or for further information.
Adapted from U of Dayton, U of London, and Dr. Will S. Keim websites.

source: http://www.loyola.edu/campuslife/healthservices/counselingcenter/hmsick.html

Power point downloaded here: http://www.pserie.psu.edu/student/counseling/pdf/homesick.pdf#search=%27college%20home%20sick%27



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