Banish homesickness – 8 ways to make the most of life at university

Posted 24 October 2015
Make the most of your university study experience!

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Homesickness is experienced by most people when they are living away from home for the first time. This is extremely common with students during the first year of university, however, this does not need to affect your ability to succeed at university. Learn how you can overcome feelings of homesickness.

At some point during your first year at university, you are likely to find yourself longing to go back to your home country where you have your family and friends and familiar things around you. This is common to all students at university, not only those who are studying abroad. As an international student you will also experience cultural differences that you need to assimilate alongside missing what is the most familiar and comfortable to you. Be patient and don't worry. Homesickness is very normal, and the feeling will pass.

Immersing yourself into university life is the best way to make homesickness pass more quickly. The idea is to keep busy and enjoy your new environment as much as possible.

1. Engage in campus life

Universities in the USA and Canada offer an ideal environment to experience life as an adult, away from home and your family. 

  • Living in student residences allows you to form close friendships with your roommates and other dorm residents.
  • Student clubs and associations give you the opportunity to participate in group activities
  • Joining a sports team gives you a sense of belonging

Life on campus can be as exciting as you make it!

2. Make new friends

Of course you will miss your best friend, but there is no limit to how many best friends you can have in your lifetime! Be open to making new friends from different cultural backgrounds and treat your interactions as a new learning experience. The more involved you are with other people and learning about them, the less you will think about how things are back home. Being at a university with students from many different countries gives you the opportunity to build a tremendous network of friends – in the future, no matter where you travel on vacation, business, or even to study further, you will likely have a friend close by!

3. Talk to others about your feelings of homesickness

Almost all of the students in their first year at university are experiencing homesickness at different levels, because everyone has left their home and parents to begin studying an undergraduate degree. Talk to your friends about how you feel, share stories about your family and life in your home, and build you own support structure for dealing with homesickness.

Additionally, universities in the USA and Canada offer student support services including student counselors who can help you through the rough times when homesickness hits hard. 

4. Build a routine and stick to it

Homesickness is more often about missing what is familiar rather than missing your actual home. Work on creating a routine for yourself and make sure you follow that routine to make what is new to you, familiar. This will help you feel more comfortable in your new environment. 

5. Recreate your cultural environment at university

Being at university does not mean you cannot be yourself anymore, and you are a product of your cultural environment, so bring it with you! If there is something you did regularly at home, such as say prayers, continue to do it on campus too. All universities offer students a place to practice their religious rituals and continue their worship, and often you will find student organizations that are culturally inclined. You may even have the opportunity to celebrate special holidays together and eat some of your favorite foods! 

6. Food therapy

Eating a meal is a communal activity in many cultures, and in some cultures, families eat from the same plate, making the meal, a very rich shared experience. It is widely agreed upon that when we eat together, we create strong bonds and positive associations with the people and food. So get a friend or two to sit down and sample new foods at mealtimes – try new cuisines and experiment with your palate – you will be surprised by how much comfort a healthful meal can bring you! 

Campuses across North America provide many healthy options for their students and are able to accommodate different dietary requirements.

7. Be a tourist

When you visit a new destination as a tourist, you seldom feel homesick, because you are excited by the new experiences and want to absorb as much of the locale as you can. Approach university life with the same sense of exploration and set yourself on the path of discovery. Find yourself a favorite spot to study, find new paths between your dorm and campus buildings, seek out a restaurant that serves food from your home country, take photos of the places you visit in and around campus. 

8. Limit communication with family and friends "back home"

When we miss someone or something, we instinctively lean further towards that person or thing, but often this prevents us from forming new alliances. You will never break ties with your family and friends, but continuously phoning, texting and chatting on Skype with them will stop you from building a new life. While it is important to keep connected and share your love with them, it is also important that you give yourself a chance to explore your university, make new friends and feel happy about your decision to study abroad.

Succeeding at university depends on your ability to embrace your new environment and take advantage of all it has to offer! Learn more about life at university in the USA or Canada.