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What is homesickness?

Leaving home and coming to University has to be one of the common times when homesickness can cause problems.  Even those who never expected to experience it can suddenly find themselves missing home or some aspect of it.

Signs of Homesickness:

  • Thinking about home so much you struggle to focus on this new phase in your life
  • You feel missing home is  lowering your mood or increasing your anxiety; some people develop obsessive thoughts/worries; and sometimes people experience symptoms of physical ill health.
  • Feeling alone disorientated and/or lost.
  • Wanting to stay in your room/bed.
  • Feeling swamped, frightened and wanting to run away or not join in.

Sometimes these signs can develop even before coming to University.  Other people find they feel homesick immediately upon moving to University.  Others find that they are fine to begin with, but then discover feelings of loss and/ or homesickness later in the academic year.

It is entirely reasonable for people to feel homesick. Indeed, it is an understandable response to a very significant life change.

Everyone has their own ways of coping with new/difficult /different situations.  Sometimes moving to University can rob us of some of these coping strategies because many of our supports are linked to home.

Homesickness can cause significant problems.   Students can find their self-confidence diminishing, and University can become a very negative experience initially.  But homesickness also presents students with an opportunity to overcome difficulties.

How to help yourself

  1. There is real benefit in acknowledging what you are feeling and accepting it. Often, accepting how you feel does help. Such acceptance involves observing the feeling without passing judgement on yourself for feeling the way you do. If you can look upon the feeling as one that has been endured by others and needs to be worked through by you, then you will almost certainly come out of the experience.
  1. Some students find contact with home/family/friends helpful during the transition whilst others find it makes them feel worse. Sometimes students find it helpful to encourage people from home to come and visit.
  1. Look at your past and see if you can remember the times when you have coped well/sensibly with difficulties/problems. Think about what you did to help yourself then because you may be able to utilize that coping strategy now.
  1. Be kind to yourself, try not to tell yourself off for feeling bad; instead see if you can notice the times you manage (even with the small things) and be pleased with these successes. Praise yourself and tell yourself that you are getting there/doing well.
  1. Look after yourself, it is important, when feeling unhappy, that you take extra care with your diet and sleep. Lack of sleep and a poor diet may exacerbate the situation.
  1. Exercise has been proven to help people feel better in all sorts of ways. Joining the Sports centre and/or the Athletic Union, which has many sports clubs, could be a positive help in chipping away at the homesickness. Exercise does increase positive feelings through the release of endorphins during exercise.
  1. Try to join in activities and/or Societies, and try to make at least one or two friends. This might seem difficult when you feel homesick, but the more you participate in things, the less homesick you will feel.
  1. Help someone else, either through volunteering or by informally reaching out to someone else who appears to need a bit of help. Looking outward in this way has been shown to increase feelings of self -worth and happiness.
  1. Try to develop a routine as soon as possible because this will increase your sense of being more in control of things here.
  1. Talk to someone, sometimes it helps to share how you are feeling:
    • Call in to speak to someone at the ASC (Advice & Support Centre) at 79 North Street, or by telephone: (46) 2020, or email.
    • Phone Nightline, which is a confidential and anonymous listening and information service, run by students and for students every night of term time from 8pm to 7am. They are also there for information about St Andrews. Nightline's number is: (46) 2266
    • Speak to your Warden or any of the Assistant Wardens if you are in Hall
    • Talk to your friends or someone you would like to be a friend. It may be that they are experiencing similar emotions and you can help each other.
    • Ask the Chaplain for guidance/support. He can help you to link in with other likeminded people, whatever your faith.

For more help and information on this and anything else, why not speak to Student Services?

The University of St Andrews would like to acknowledge the contribution of the University of Cambridge for the content of much of this document.



Advice and Support Centre
79 North Street
St Andrews
KY16 9AL
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)1334 46 2020

Open Monday to Friday
9:30am to 4:30pm