I just finished my first year of uni, so I thought it would be good to tell you about my experience living away from home for the first time. I’m from Luxembourg, which means term breaks are the main time I get to spend at home.
Dealing with homesickness
Initially, I didn’t suffer much from homesickness, as I was so excited to be in a new environment with so many people to meet, and so much to discover. Though, being away from home for ten weeks at a time could feel trying, especially when I came back after Christmas.
To cope with homesickness, I call my family at least once a week. I’ve also found that interactive activities, like doing an online movie night together, or baking mug cakes with my sister for her birthday, help a lot too. It really feels like you’re in the same space as your family, as you’re doing the same thing at the same time. I’ve also had to adjust to not being around my pets, but it means that I’m all the more appreciative of them when I return home!
Being such a cumbersome journey away from home can also be challenging, as you learn to navigate the first year of uni on your own. But the University offers a number of support services you can talk to about homesickness, or other personal issues, confidentially, and receive advice or information from. These include Open Door, a team of Mental Health Practitioners; Student Wellbeing Officers at the YUSU and GSA Advice and Support Centres; your College Life Advisor, who offers peer support for issues such as homesickness, making friends and settling into uni life; and Nightline, a listening service ran by students from 8pm to 8am. Each department also has an allocated Student Wellbeing Officer.
Meeting people and making friends
This was something I worried about during Fresher’s Week, as I’m quite a shy person, and it seemed like everyone was making friends so quickly.
But even if you don’t find friends immediately, there are plenty of other opportunities to meet new people during the year, such as from your course, during volunteering activities, or also online via Student Connect. Student Connect matches you with people from your course or college, based on your interests. You then introduce yourselves and plan to meet. You can fill in as many forms as you want during the year, and I’ve found it a fun way to meet new people and explore York with, especially as I find it nerve-racking to approach people initially!
Societies have also been a massive part of my first year. During the first week, you can attend Freshers’ Fair to see stalls of what York has to offer (often, they give out free sweets!). You can also read up on societies via the YUSU website.
I cannot emphasise enough how friendly, inclusive and welcoming these societies are. I definitely wouldn’t hold back on exploring them, and it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests, however niche. Or, as in my case, use it as a means to explore something new in a low-key, supportive environment.
This year, I decided to join Triathlon Society with no prior experience, which felt quite daunting, as there are some really talented athletes among the club. I could barely keep up during the first club run, but one of the members stayed behind at a slower pace and chatted with me. I also immediately felt included as they told me about the social media account and next socials planned.
The community spirit provided by societies was also exemplified when I joined Triathlon Society in Westonbirt for my first sprint triathlon. Again, I felt nervous, but everyone was extremely encouraging. We made posters and cheered each other on. That made a huge difference, and my experience with societies has really made me feel part of something at uni.
I hope this was helpful, and gave you some insight into what the first year living away from home can be like. York has a very welcoming and inclusive community, so at the end of the day, it’s not too hard to build a home away from home!