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A guide to homesickness

Matt Taylor gives his advice for how to deal with homesickness from the perspective of a care leaver.

We’re now in the middle of the Michaelmas term. The first term always feels like the longest because there are no bank holidays or breaks in between. It is at this time that, with all the distractions of freshers’ week gone, feelings of homesickness often emerge. 

One of the most crushing things about homesickness is the stigma attached to it. We feel it is a ‘non-emotion’, or a childish set of feelings. This is not true. It is a real thing. For many, coming to university is a big change from the way they were used to living, and soit can create a crisis of identity. The tug-of-war between the life we had and the life we now have generates overwhelming feelings. Homesickness is the ache from an old wound. It takes time to get used to. 

Living in the care system, where moving home and sometimes even country, homesickness had become a fact of my life.  These are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way on how to deal with it.

1. Don’t crawl the walls.

When a bout of homesickness creeps up on you, the temptation to isolate yourself can be crippling. Changing the scenery can transform your feelings.  Encourage yourself to have regular but small positive social interactions. At sixteen, I moved from a children’s home on the Isle of Man to a ‘supported lodgings’ (a privately rented bedroom) in the UK. I was ripped away from my entire life and dropped into the middle of rural England. I found that going out to regular open-mic nights helped relieve the social isolation and meet new people. 

Get outside. Force yourself to meet new people. Go to events. Embrace your new life.

2. Doom scrolling is not a comfort blanket. 

It’s easy to spiral into a doom-scrolling loop to deal with the overwhelming feelings. In fact, it’s just an avoidance tactic or coping mechanism which achieves the exact opposite. If you find yourself endlessly scrolling through apps, put your phone down, and check in with yourself and see what it is you’re feeling. 

. Real life is not online. Put your phone down. Give yourself space. Follow point 1. 

3. Listen to music that makes you feel happy.

The great thing about music is that it creates the soundtrack to our lives. It’s a potent tool in shaping our emotions and memories. At any point I feel vulnerable, I stick on a favourite album and go for a walk. I find this a compelling way to work through what I’m feeling and help me think more clearly. Research has also shown that listening to music you like releases dopamine (the feel-good chemical) into the brain. 

Create a playlist. Plug your earphones in. Tune into the good emotions. Drop the homesickness out. 

4. Don’t suffer in silence. 

One of the most striking things I’ve found when moving to a new place is that everyone understands what it is like. And everyone seems to have advice on how to deal with it. At Oxford, I guarantee you are not the only one dealing with homesickness. Sometimes, talking through your feelings or sharing anecdotes from home can help reduce the homesickness. This will also help in forging new relationships in the new life you now have. 

You’re not the only one. Share your experience. Surprise yourself. 

Homesickness affects everyone at some point in different ways. Through sharing, we can normalise these feelings and avoid the isolation that comes with them. 

Image credit: Andrew Neel via Pexels.

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