Regardless of how excited you are or how prepared you feel to begin university, it is likely you will feel homesick at some point. Making the change from high school to university can be challenging. You have to adjust to new learning styles, new living situations, new responsibilities, new freedoms, and a new environment, all of this, quite possibly, without the support of the network that has built up around you throughout your life.
Feeling homesick is a normal response to this new chapter in your life. While people experience homesickness in different ways and at different times, it's important to actively prevent and alleviate your feelings of loneliness and loss.
There are several ways to reduce the feelings of homesickness:
- Be prepared: Bring a few sentimental items from home or actual photos of friends and family that you can put on your walls.
- Stay connected: Facebook may be at the touch of your fingers, but the human connection of a phone call, video chat, or weekend home can be much more effective at reducing homesickness. Tell your family or friends that you are feeling homesick, but try not to dwell on it too much. Focusing on the positives is a great way to turn around a low mood.
- Start building new support systems: There are several support units on campus that care about you and want to make you feel welcome, because they know the transition to university can be a lonely one. One such unit is Student Learning Services. We encourage you to come to our front desk and ask questions. We can give you directions to places you can't find, or refer you to someone who can assist you with whatever barrier you've come up against. Feel free to take some study skills handouts, and please come back and let us know what worked for you so that you can help the next generation of first-year students with their transition
- Give it time: Establishing new friends and support systems doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. Remember you are not alone, most students experience homesickness.
- Branch out: Whether friends from high school or siblings already attend the U of S, or you arrive without knowing anyone, take the time to try new things and meet new people. While already having a connection on campus is great, it doesn’t safeguard you from homesickness. New experiences are a large part of university and attending events, joining clubs, or volunteering will help you discover your niche on campus.
- Explore campus: We have a beautiful campus, so even if you haven’t met anyone yet take a walk or a guided tour. Just getting outside for a little while is likely to make you feel better.
Getting Established in University
We understand that making new friends and meeting people is not easy for everyone, so we’ve gathered a list of ways to meet new people. The first week in particular is full of opportunities to meet people and explore your friendship options. Make the acquaintance of your classmates; they may not end up being friends you will have for life, but they will be someone you can discuss the course material with, express your anxieties to, and they will likely share notes with you if you happen to miss a class.
Lab partners are particularly quick routes to class relationships. You will be working with them weekly for the entire term and will have the shared experience of the class you're in. These two qualities give you a steady date and a route to conversation.
If you're living in residence, you have a built-in group of people to meet and discuss your first year experience with. There are also all sorts of events and services available for you to help take your mind off home and help get your university life started.
The first few days are the hardest and you'll get more and more comfortable the further you get into the term. You will develop a routine and gradually your focus will shift from thoughts of home to finishing assignments and weekend plans.
If you continue to feel homesick, even after meeting new people and trying new things, or if you find it impossible to put yourself out there, don't hesitate to contact Student Counselling Services. They are trained to help people cope with their emotional responses to situations and they deal with many cases of homesickness every fall. They are there to help you.
Here's what one student had to say about her first-year experience:
My first year I was super, super homesick. I really struggled with being away from my mom and my home. I missed everything there was to miss - my pets, my brothers, my dad, the lake, the garden, my own shower, even the way that "home" smelled.
When I came home from a day of high school, I would sit and do my homework at the kitchen table while chatting to mom as she made supper. I missed telling her about my day. Looking back, missing her was strange since I called her at least once if not 5 times a day. I even cried for a whole day once....literally....from the moment I woke up until the moment I fell asleep - in class, at lunch; I don't know what was wrong with me!
What helped me get past my homesickness was talking to my RA (Residence Assistant). She told me that getting involved in things might help - so I found the Women's Centre, SHIP, and other places to put my two cents in. She also told me about Student Counseling Services - they can work miracles over there. Three visits and I wasn't calling home 3 times a day - I kept it to only one. The good news was that I was "healed" by Christmas - well, good enough anyway.