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It was just after three o’clock on Tuesday afternoon on a Virgin Pendolino service. I found myself plummeting southwards through the countryside, away from Lancaster station. My journey was only forty-five minutes, which I was thankful for, because Freshers’ Flu doesn’t make a train journey any easier.
According to The Independent’s Twitter account, I’ve become a statistic. The third week of October is the most popular for rail journeys using the 16-25 Railcard with these results peaking on Tuesday 13th October. Statistically speaking, this is the day we all want to go home; we don’t even want to wait until the weekend. True to form, I was one of four students who alighted the 3A bus outside Lancaster train station. I found myself excited because this bout of homesickness happened over two weeks after moving in. In first year I, ashamedly, didn’t even make it to the end of Freshers’ Week.
Feeling like you’re the only one who is getting homesickness isn’t rare; you’re not alone. Over two thirds of undergraduates get homesick, and it’s not just first years; take it from a second year. It’s okay to miss home, family and friends. It’s okay to miss home cooking. It’s okay to want to sneak home to do laundry or avoid spending more money on (dare I say it) alcohol. It’s okay to want a break. Granted, not all of us can get home so easily midweek or even during the weekend.
I’m lucky to live so close, but others have to navigate several trains, and some even have to travel by boat or plane to reach their loved ones. What other options are there for those who haven’t got the money or can’t travel home so easily? One of the best ways to combat homesickness is to avoid spending so much time on your room. As much fun as it is to sit in and binge watch shows on Netflix you’re better off being, you know… outside, with the three-dimensional people. Try and plan to go out with your flatmates or classmates. That is to say, go out during the daylight hours.
Plan things in advance. LUSU and your college run near-weekly trips which go across the UK. This upcoming weekend, Graduate College will be offering a trip to Whitby on Halloween for their Gothic Festival, and you can purchase tickets for that, as well as tickets to the York Christmas Fair, on Lancaster’s online store. Anyone can sign up for these trips; it doesn’t matter what college you’re in. You’ll get to visit some of the most interesting and cultural places in the UK, and you get to do it for much cheaper than if you decided to go alone! For someone like me, who gets homesick and definitely hasn’t seen enough of the country I was brought up in, it’s the perfect solution, and these trips also allow international students a chance to see places in the UK which they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to visit.
Even if you don’t fancy running back and forth each weekend, there are other solutions. Just walking around campus and taking advantage of the fact that it’s been unusually rain-free around campus is a great way to discover new people and secure yourself some freebies. I also guarantee – if it’s not yet happened – someone will recognise you and the only memory you’ll have of them is something hazy from somewhere in town. If you do go home, don’t take too much – I’ve limited myself to just a backpack – and make sure that your return journey is already booked. I hate to say it, but if you get too attached and stay that extra day, you’ll be tempted never to come back.
My own journey back on Thursday morning was somewhat more subdued. I didn’t realise how much I missed being around the pestering parents and sarcastic siblings. It’s hard to leave home again, so be prepared to not want to leave. I think it’s hard to leave the fresh, home-cooked food, clean clothes and a double bed where you can’t feel every spring in your back. It’s familiar; it’s comfortable. But remember you’ve got a £9,000-a-year undergraduate degree waiting for you, and it requires attendance at lectures and seminars.
I’ve made sure my next journey home is already planned. That way, I’ve got something to focus on so I don’t feel like it’s years away until Christmas. Whether you’re waiting until the end of term or going home three weeks after your first visit, it’s almost easy to forget that FaceTime or Skype exist. If your family is anything like mine and you’re on FaceTime around dinnertime, it’s almost like being in the room. One of my biggest tips is to throw yourself into a lecture or go and hang out with your flatmates in the kitchen as soon as you get back to campus, and don’t focus on the fact that you’re back from home. I chose the fun option, I suppose; I’m back just in time for a lecture followed by two seminars. And suddenly it’s like I’ve never left.
If homesickness is causing you a problem at university, please get in touch with your college’s wellbeing officer if you need a chat or make use of services in the base or through Lancaster’s nightline service.