Homesickness and cultural barriers? Here’s how I survived my first months at uni

14 Nov 2019
By Buxi D., Student at University of Nottingham

It’s always exciting to study and live in a new place, especially as an international student. However, while I checked into my accommodation, it wasn’t my flatmates but the pouring rain and gales that welcomed me.

It suddenly seemed that moving in might not be as exciting and straightforward as I expected. Everything would be different and I immediately started to miss my undergraduate friends. But I gradually got over my homesickness, and here are my top tips on how you can too.

Try to find out the reasons that lead to your homesickness

During the first few months at uni, I found myself struggling to cook a meal for myself. I had no choice but to buy those ready-to-eat frozen meals and put them in the microwave. Those moments stood in front of the oven were when I felt the most homesick.

In this case, I went to a Chinese restaurant to grab a bite and it really helped. The moment these authentic Chinese dishes were served, my homesickness faded away.

Cultural barriers and a lack of confidence using English (a second language for most international students) are other reasons that can lead to you feeling homesick. But there are ways you can try and work through these feelings....

Abandon the stereotype

One of the widespread stereotypes among international students about the British is they are seen as cold and distant. Based on this misunderstanding, it’s easy for us international students to keep to ourselves and hide in our comfort zone. However, the British, most of them at least, are really warm-hearted and are always happy to offer you a hand.

For example, while I was waiting at a bus stop, I was checking the route map to pass the time as the bus was still five minutes away. A lovely old lady came up to me, asked where I was going and whether I needed help transferring if the bus couldn’t directly take me to my destination.

Though I already had my route planned through Google Maps on my mobile, the lady’s kindness still meant a lot to me. This experience not only broke my stereotype about the Brits, but it also gave me the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and chat with locals more.

… and keep yourself busy

As I mentioned above, international students’ homesickness is largely down to an illusion that locals are not friendly. Because of this, we tend to hide in our comfort zone with others from a similar cultural background. Sometimes this can be helpful, as it serves as a shelter and makes us feel at home.

However, to thoroughly overcome homesickness and make the best use of your uni time, try joining some societies, making more friends, and filling up your schedule with activities. I worked as an international student ambassador last year and made a lot of friends by doing it.

Compared to my comfort zone, I found chatting and working with friends from different cultural backgrounds offered me brand new perspectives in solving my problems, from tackling homesickness to writing up a term paper. So now, why not walk out of your accommodation, take any opportunities that come your way and join some societies? I hope you get to grips with uni life soon.

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Buxi is studying for his MA in English Literature at the University of Nottingham.