Your first day of university marks the beginning of a new chapter in your life, and often times, a major reconfiguration of what you know as ‘home’. Leaving your familiar world behind to experience university life in a new city is exciting, but when the distance from home and loved ones begin to get you down, how do you deal? Here are a few tips to help you beat the homesickness, before it beats you.
Tip #1: Pack a little piece of home
Moving to another city and embarking on something new doesn’t mean you have to leave your home behind completely. Think of what made you feel at home in your parents’ house and recreate it in your own way at school. Create a photo album of family and friends, make a collage of photos on your wall, or set up a cork board to pin up mementos of your travels and adventures. Decorating your room at school will make it feel homier, says second-year student Olivia Siwanowicz. It also helps to try and recreate traditions from home. “I’m really used to eating dinner with my family every night, so my friends and I always made a point to eat together and talk about our day,” says Siwanowicz.
Tip #2: Get involved on campus
School clubs and activities are a surefire remedy for any feelings of stress and homesickness. They provide ample opportunity for meeting new people with the same interests as you. “Joining the cheerleading team really got my mind off things, got me out of the apartment, and it was also great for meeting new people,” says second-year student Courtney Douglas. Remember that first year is all about putting yourself out there in order to discover your interests; getting involved will keep you from dwelling on any loneliness you might otherwise feel.
Tip #3: Use technology to your advantage
For students who don’t have the opportunity to go home on weekends, or even on holidays, the distance from family and friends can be quite daunting. Skype, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and regular mail are all ways that you can use to keep in touch with family and friends who may seem a world away when this happens. “There were times during the year I felt a bit distanced from my family, especially when I knew they were having a family get-together without me,” says second-year student Cassie Hendry. “Because of that, I used Skype every week, sent postcards, and called. The most important thing to remember is that with today's technology, you're never too far from those you love.”
Tip #4: Surround yourself with friends
If you’re having a good time at school, and keeping busy, chances are you won’t have as much time to miss home. “I always like to surround myself with others to keep my mind off of the homesickness,” says second-year student Emma Lis. One way to do this is to keep your door open in residence, she says, rather than hide away. Be open to meeting new people, and lean on friends for support when you’re feeling down; they can probably offer up some advice from their own experiences. Make an effort to meet people who live off-campus too; it’s a great way to get to know the city, and they might just invite you for a home-cooked meal once in a while too!
Tip #5: Make use of Carleton’s resources
If you’re having a tough time adjusting to life away from home and need someone to talk to, Carleton University offers counseling services to both on and off-campus students. More information I can be found at Carleton University’s Health and Counseling website. Workshops and other resources are available, and a crisis centre is on call if you have an emergency.
The most important thing to remember is to embrace this new experience as a fun step in your life.
“I was a bit nervous going into it at the beginning,” says second-year student Danielle Aucoin, “but if anything, I get the 'sick' feeling wanting to go back, now that I am home.”
Check out our other Frosh Life posts for more tips!