Top tips for when you're feeling homesick

For some students, starting university can be a huge adjustment. It’s not about how far from home you are, it can often be about how far from home you feel.


Some people have left a very close knit group of friends or family at home or a beloved pet. Homesickness can be overwhelming and it can be a struggle to overcome it because we often feel guilty for feeling it at all, and it can occur at a time when we are dealing with all sorts of other challenges making it hard to identify.


Here are some of our top tips.


Although it is a different experience for all of us, there is a pattern of adjustment when you start life at university. You may experience all of this or none of it, but it can help to understand you are on a journey that can end in acceptance and integration (i.e. settling happily in to your new life at university).



The honeymoon – this is typically in week one when you are surrounded by people who are in the same boat as you, open to making new friends and try new things. It’s an exciting time when all your hard work has paid off and you are finally here (bear in mind you can quickly start to feel homesick at this stage, everything is very new).


Cultural shock – you don’t have to move to another country to experience culture shock. Even if you went to college down the road in Edinburgh, you have moved in to a new academic culture and may be facing the challenge of being much more self-sufficient on top of new academic pressures. This feeling can often start in the weeks following the exciting beginning when old routines and support from home are suddenly missed and new friendships, even when they are going well, don’t have the same comforting feel as your old ones.


Initial adjustment – This is the feeling you are starting to settle in to your new routines and responsibilities, and friendships are becoming deeper and more comfortable. It can be a reassuring time when you start to feel confident about your abilities. 


Mental isolation – This stage can often be triggered by you returning home, if you don’t live permanently in Edinburgh. Often students find that when they do return home things are not the same, they have changed, and families and routines at home are not the same either. You can be left feeling that you don’t quite fit in to either world anymore.  This stage can be particularly hard as you may now have been at university for a whole semester and feel that you should be fully settled in to your new life.


Acceptance and integration - this is that feeling you have been waiting for, you start to feel more connected to your new life and confident in your friendships. It doesn’t mean everything is now perfect but you feel part of a community at the university and confident being yourself.

Some people settle in to university (or seem to) in a matter of days and for others it takes longer to build connections. Try not to look outwards for cues on how you should be doing. We see lots of homesick students in the Advice Place and some times that homesickness manifests itself as someone being very sad and quiet and other times they are exuberant and seem full of confidence, but they are actually feeling very alone.  You know yourself and how long it takes you to feel settled in new situations. It’s ok to reinvent yourself at university but don’t reinvent yourself into a person who expects the impossible of yourself.
It sounds obvious but the best way to make connections with people is to seek out activities that you like and enjoy and you will meet people who you get along with. They might not be on your floor in halls, or in your tutorial, so seek them out. Join a society or volunteer, or look for a sports club that you might enjoy, you can start any of these things at any point in the year so don’t worry about missing your chance in welcome week. 
Homesickness can be easily brushed off, by people who aren’t currently feeling it, as something you need to tough your way through. There is lots of support for you at the University at the Chaplaincy, the Counselling service and through students lead support like Nightline . You can also make use of Bigwhitewall which is an online support space you have access to 24 hours a day for free as long as you have an email address.
It can be tempting to completely reinvent yourself when you arrive at university, but don’t put pressure on yourself to give up everything you know and are comforted by. Talk to old friends now and then, bring some familiar comforts from home or make something like a familiar recipe for dinner.
You are allowed to feel homesick. It feels awful and can be really tiring, but it is a completely legitimate way to feel. There is no right or wrong way to experience it, or a time limit on how long you can feel it for. You might be in your 4th year and have a sudden wave of homesickness and that’s ok. Just remember you are not alone, lots of students feel homesick.


It’s tiring looking after yourself and facing lots of changes. There can be lots of pressure to get your ‘self-care ‘right and this can feel like you are expected to make sure you always feel good. That is impossible. Feeling sad or lonely is something we are all allowed to feel, just seek support where and when you can and come and see us if you are not sure what to do next. 



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