6 Ways to Cope with Homesickness

Living away from home for the first time is a daunting experience for everyone, which can often lead to homesickness. Those feelings of loneliness and isolation tend to affect international students most at university, as they adjust to life away from family, in a totally new country, while studying full time. It's a lot to take in! However there are easy steps you can take to overcome homesickness, and make the most of your Vantage One experience.

1. Understand the causes and symptoms of homesickness

Despite the name, homesickness isn't necessarily about missing your home. Rather, it's when you experience a sense of loss when you no longer have the familiarity, connection and security that you had before entering a new environment, like university. There are many symptoms of homesickness such as lost motivation, anxiety, depression, fatigue, even physical signs like headaches. Once you can recognize the signs of homesickness, it's easier to manage.

2. Stay connected with family and friends at home

Since homesickness is largely caused by feeling uncomfortable in your new setting, the best thing you can do is try to surround yourself with some things that feel familiar. Skype family and friends at home, so you're up to date and don't feel so far away. It's also helpful to decorate your room with a couple things from home, like photos or stream your favourite radio station. You can also try and meet people from your home country, even city, through campus clubs and societies so you can discuss the things you miss. Be careful not to become fixated on what's familiar though, and be open to experiencing the new.  

3. Get involved with campus activities

Ease your homesickness by getting involved with the local community and making new friends. This not only distracts you from thinking about your family, but also helps introduce you to the new environment. Making new friends is also a great way to learn about other cultures (not just Canada's), as well as teach others about your own. You can make new friends on campus through clubs, societies, events and classes — UBC is home many organizations and communities based on backgrounds and culture. They organize events regularly, which are great for networking.
Visit ams.ubc.ca/clubs for more.

4. Create a new support network

If you want someone to connect with in person, you can always seek help from Vantage peer mentors. The Vantage Peer Mentorship Program is a student-run program that aims to build connections between Vantage students and Vantage alumni. All peer mentors were once Vantage students as well, so they can relate to you and share their experiences in dealing with homesickness. Vantage peer mentors host office appointments every Tuesday at 6pm. They also run various events for more opportunities to socialise.

5. Maintain physical health for mental health

It's a well-known fact that our physical health can greatly influence our mental health, so it‰Ûªs important to look after your body. While it can be tempting to stay inside and watch movies all day when you're feeling down, push yourself to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. Regular exercise and a healthy diet not only helps to keep you fit, sleep better and improve concentration, it also strengthens your immune system to prevent illness.

6. Ask for help

Homesickness can greatly influence your studies if not properly managed. If you're experiencing trouble sleeping, concentrating, and maintaining enough energy to complete your studies, you may benefit from UBC's counselling services. With a team of professional psychologists, they can support you with advice, tools and strategies to cope with homesickness, so you can get back to being happy, healthy and ready to take on second year at UBC. There are drop-in and scheduled appointments available — visit students.ubc.ca/health-wellness to book.

Homesickness can be hard to go through, but it's nothing to be afraid of. There is always a way out, and always someone who will listen. The key is to be open minded and seek the supportive resources you need.