The majority of first year university students- especially international students will experience some level of homesickness. Lots of University students suffer from some degree of homesickness -it’s a very normal reaction to being away from home. Freelancing and Journalism Enterprise (MA) student Robin Cannone shares his personal experience and advice on how to deal with homesickness…

robin-cannoneI was a month shy of twenty when I decided to move to the UK from France to study. I was eager to put foot on the land that had seen the birth of Shakespeare, The Beatles and Thomas Edward Lawrence. Today, I am almost twenty-three and I can tell you it has not always been ‘La vie en rose’ here.

Although I am doing well in my studies and have successfully landed a part-time job as a PR/Marketing Assistant, homesickness comes knocking at my door at times. Work is a good medium to let go and free oneself from frustration and negative feelings, but sometimes it is not just enough to deal with homesickness.

If you have finally decided to take the plunge, and go abroad to study, or come to Birmingham City University– congratulations, it will probably be the best year of your life. Be warned however, you will have as many ups as downs and at times you will be ready to give up everything to get back to the comfort of your home. This is an account, which I hope will be useful to you, on how to deal with homesickness.

Culture shock:

If you cannot deal with homesickness efficiently, you should try at least to understand it. Sociologists have introduced the concept of culture shock as represented on the graph above. It shows that, although everything seems fascinating and exciting when arriving in a new country, little by little comes the realisation of cultural differences and frustration sets in. This is when homesickness kicks in. However, not everyone reacts with the same intensity to culture shock and some people are more likely to get over it easily than others. It usually happens halfway through an experience abroad.

Stay in contact with your friends and family:

At the moment you are experiencing homesickness, it is really important that you stay in touch with your family and friends at home. Nowadays, applications such as Skype and FaceTime can make you feel like your loved ones are next to you when you are actually separated by thousands of miles. They will talk to you, reassure you and put a bit of warmth in your heart.

Who knows, if they can afford a plane ticket and they are not too bad at organising a travel on their own, they can pay you a visit. Besides, if you’re missing pastries from your country – like I was missing my croissants – you can always ask your friends to bring them when they come to visit.

Make new friends and do things:

Life abroad is an adventure. If you are an international student, odds are you won’t have too much work to overwhelm you. Take advantage of it to let yourself go and think of this year as the biggest adventure of your life.

At times when I was not feeling like going out, I kept pushing myself, thinking I could well have done what I was doing back in my home country. It forced me to do things, meet new people and experience the British life, although it was scary at times.

Don’t be afraid of the language barrier, if people don’t want to talk to you because of it, they’re not worth talking to. If people don’t come to you first, force yourself to go to them. You can learn new things from native and they from you. If you stay alone on your side, you’ll surely feel homesick at some point, so you may as well start socialising.

Look for a job:

Having no or little money will probably be an obstacle to enjoying your stay abroad wholly. Look for a part-time job; the university has plenty to offer and restaurants often look for students like you.

Moreover, finding a job gives the opportunity to immerse oneself even more into another culture; working in the industry gives you another insight than your student experience into life abroad. Who knows, you may well learn more and understand better the causes of your homesickness.

Go back home for holidays:

If you can afford it, you might want to go back home for holidays. What I did at the beginning of the year was to separate my calendar every three months, allowing me two or three weeks of respite back home.

It’s nice and it certainly helps to go back home to find friends and family around the Christmas tree or a few Easter chocolates!

Starting university is exciting and fun – but it can also be quite daunting. Student Services is here to help our new and returning students settle in to university life by providing support, advice and guidance through our professional support services and student mentors. Find out more here.

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