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The basics
THE UK: Once you arrive

Top Tips: How to deal with homesickness

How do you deal with homesickness when you’re an international student? We caught up with Emilia, an American student who studied in the UK to get some advice.

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One of the big challenges of being an international student is dealing with homesickness. It’s natural to feel a little homesick and miss your family while studying away, but there are ways of combatting it. We chatted to Emilia, an international student who studied in the UK, about her experiences and how she dealt with the issue.



How did you deal with being away from home?


I think that as an international student it is something that you come to accept over time. You may find yourself seeing locally based students going home and feel a little bit left out. However, the costs of getting yourself home are extremely high, not to mention the logistics. I mean sometimes this may mean taking two planes and double-digit flight times. You probably can’t go home as much as you’d like. You know this and you expect this. That’s why it’s not that big of a deal.


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Have you found yourself alone at all?


One of the things that I did notice about the UK was how frequently domestic students go home on weekends and for long weekends. This has meant I’ve been alone in a near empty residence corridor and alone in the house. It happened more than I expected it to, if I’m honest.


Can you describe the first time you felt really homesick? 


The first time it happened was halfway through the autumn term of my first year. All of a sudden everyone began to feel homesick. Only a couple of friends remained. We had fun, but it felt as if the university bubble had deflated partially. The energy that charged the dining hall disappeared. We began to see our new world differently. We saw uncomfortable chairs, no couches and scratchy rugs. We saw small beds, movies on laptop screens and undercooked jacket potatoes. Removing the crowds removed university life’s exciting “newness”.


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What techniques did you use to combat this?


I learnt that I could take mini-breaks. Sometimes this meant leaving Bristol for a weekend and other times it meant having a pretend holiday within the city.  When my friends went home, I felt a new freedom to set a schedule completely my own, free from social obligations. I pretend that I’ve gone home as well.



Would you say having a positive outlook is important?


Definitely. Dealing with the times when friends leave requires a positive attitude. If I had been in America, I would have gone home once a month. Living abroad forces you to become more self-reliant. The moments when you’re alone require you to perceive that self-reliance as a comfort. We don’t always need the comforts of home to feel like we belong.


What about support systems?


Of course, having a good support system at your university makes it easier to retain a sense of home. Fortunately, my department was small and close-knit enough that I had clear academic roots. Our study spaces became my second living room. 

Can you make university a home away from home?


I remember the first-year rooms of some friends who had attempted to move their large childhood rooms into the small space allotted by halls. You can never recreate that. Rather, you’re free to reinvent what home means. You’re free to discover what it means in the moment.

Going to university abroad doesn’t mean that you’re forced to give up home.  Rather, it requires you to discover a new sense of home and belonging. This new definition is one you can take with you, allowing you to transport your home to wherever you go.


Any advice for people suffering from homesickness?


If homesickness really has got you down, do not hesitate to seek out your university’s counselling service. Most have drop-in hours during which you do not have to make an appointment. Even if you’re unsure about who to talk to, there is always support available.’


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