Homesickness: looking after yourself when you’re separated from family and friends

It’s a strange time to be an international student right now. We are currently living in very uncertain times, hoping for all of this to be over soon. Being 6500 miles away from home and remaining on campus has been pretty isolating for me, and I’ve been missing home more than ever before. However, I’ve been trying my best to take care of myself both physically and mentally. Here are a few of the things that have helped me to deal with homesickness: 

1. Contacting family

Homesickness is a normal feeling when you’re an international student, and calling family can help ease it a bit. Although, it can also be a double-edged sword, as sometimes I end up feeling even more homesick than before. In this case, I usually just message them instead. It’s good to at least send them a message, even if you don’t feel like video calling. Checking up on them will ease their worries and will also ease yours, and will ensure that you’re staying connected with family.

2. Organise (virtual) social events

Aside from keeping in touch with family, calling friends to do things together can also be good. The Sober Society have been organizing online events like film nights and game nights, as well as casual Google Hangouts sessions for people who would like some company. I’ve been having occasional watch parties with a friend who’s also remaining in York, and with friends back home in Malaysia. Even when we’re not watching something together through Netflix or Discord, we regularly call just to keep each other company. 

3. Social media detox

In these turbulent times, you will undoubtedly have the urge to constantly stay updated on the latest news, both in the UK and in your home country. It can be depressing and mentally-draining reading one negative headline after another. You should take regular breaks from social media and from checking news outlets. It might help to just allocate a specific time during the day to check the news, as opposed to checking it obsessively throughout the day. 

4. Do the things you enjoy

As we’re in the middle of summer term, I find university work a good distraction from everything that’s happening. Focusing on my degree work has prevented me from constantly thinking and worrying about the current circumstances. Although, I’m aware that this doesn’t work for everyone. You can practice self-care by engaging in your hobbies, and doing things you enjoy like watching films, reading books or going out for a walk. Don’t worry if you’re unable to focus on your studies at the moment. Talk to your pastoral supervisor or your department and see what they can do to help. Studies are important, but you should take care of yourself first and foremost. 

5. Structure your days

As we enter a longer period of lockdown, the days begin to blur into one another. Without lectures, seminars, workshops or meetings to go to, it can be hard to motivate yourself to do things during the day. To structure my days, I’ve been writing to-do lists with tasks I need to get done. Be kind to yourself if you don’t end up completing what you aimed to do during the day though! 

6. Take note of the support systems in place

As most of the university’s services go online, it’s advisable to take note of the support systems still in place whilst we’re in lockdown. They will be able to help you deal with any homesickness you might have by being separated from your friends and family. Open Door, Student Hub and the individual colleges are still available to help you whether you’re still on campus or if you’re already back home. There’s also Big White Wall, which is an anonymous online peer and professional support service, a safe space to share your thoughts and feelings during this uncertain period. 

These are just a few things that I’ve been doing to look after myself whilst dealing with homesickness during lockdown. It’s important to remember that even if you don’t end up doing much in the day and you aren’t as productive as you wanted to be, you shouldn’t feel guilty. We live in uncertain times, and if you manage to just get out of bed, shower and have a meal, you’ve already done a lot. If you manage to get through the day eating and surviving, you’ve accomplished a lot and you should feel proud about it. Be kind to yourself. Things may seem bleak now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and you will get to see your family and friends soon.

Read more blogs about students in lockdown.

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Mi Chelle

Hi my name is Mi Chelle (same pronunciation as Michelle) and I'm a 2nd year English student from Malaysia.

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