You wish your friend from sixth form was there with you in your first university lecture; you miss sitting at the dinner table with your family and that alarm that wakes you up at seven in the morning. You might be overwhelmed in the first few weeks of university – especially with Oxbridge and their unorthodox way of doing things – with socializing, new people, and new routines. It is easy to long for your pre-university life (or your life during the long breaks), and this is all part of homesickness.
Stay connected to your loved ones
To cope with homesickness, I ensure that I maintain contact with my family and my friends from home (even though we are all at university). I remember my Senior Tutor telling us to make sure that we call our parents at least once a month, so they don’t worry too much about us. Calling home to your parents is a great way to relieve homesickness. Even if nothing exciting is going on, knowing that your parents are well, and everything is running smoothly would clear away that homesickness. Moreover, I find setting up a weekly, biweekly, or even monthly call to keep your friends updated is a great way to handle homesickness. Everyone may have a different daily life now and there might be a fear that people will forget about you. Having these calls means that you still know what is happening in your friends’ lives and do not feel like you are being forgotten.
Find yourself a new routine
Your university life is not as organised as your sixth-form life – you don’t have classes filling your whole day, and you don’t have to wake up at an exact time every day. Establishing a new routine that balances your work and your social life and prioritises self-care might be a good start. Go out for an occasional walk and get yourself your comfort food might also help to relieve that feeling of homesickness. Whatever you put in your new routine, make sure it is something you enjoy. Finding this joy and comfort in university life would help make you miss home less and make embracing your “new home” a bit easier.
Cook your favourite dish
Another aspect of homesickness, which I think many international students would relate to, is missing home-cooked food. The best meal, in my opinion, is a meal cooked by someone you love. Going to university takes away those meals that you probably have taken for granted. A good way to cope with this, although it might not be perfect, is to try and cook the dish you miss yourself. Pay some local (international) stores a visit and see if they have something that you can cook. The taste and warmth of a home-cooked dish hit differently.
Join your country’s society (or any society)
Going abroad might feel like losing what you are familiar with: you are alone and have no one to lean on. In this case, finding people from your country or those whom you share an interest with might mean the world to you. Go to the Freshers’ Fair, go on Facebook to see if you have a group for international students in your university, and connect with them. I didn’t think Cambridge had a society for Vietnamese people, but after some digging, I found a Vietnamese postgraduate studying at Cambridge, connected with her, and got added to a group chat with other Vietnamese people. I might not talk to them every day but knowing that there is a group of people who are in the same city as you, who speak the language you are comfortable with, and who share your traditions brings a great sense of comfort. In other cases, finding people who share the same interests through sports and arts societies would also bring that same sense of comfort. Find yourself a friend or a group of people who you connect to and feel that sense of belonging. It might take some time, but you are going to get there.
All in all, there is no shame in missing home or missing your friends and pre-university life. It is a big transition from sixth form to university and longing for familiarity is normal. Find yourself a new routine, cook your favourite dish, go out with your friends, go for a walk, take care of yourself, do your readings and work, and call home – these activities will alleviate that homesickness to some extent. Do reach out if you don’t know what to do, there is always someone out there who can guide you through these difficult feelings.