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How to deal with homesickness

20 July 2017
5 tips for adjusting as an international student
As amazing as Australia is for study, we know there’s no place like home. It’s completely normal to feel homesick sometimes. We asked our international students to share how they overcame this common feeling.

Moving away for university is a big step, and it brings a range of emotions. Just like excitement, curiosity and nervousness, the feeling of homesickness is a natural part of the adventure of going to new places. It can happen as soon as you arrive, or much later. In every instance though, it’s entirely normal and there are ways to overcome it.

“As international students away from our family and friends, it’s common that we feel homesick,” says first-year education and arts student Lingling Zhang. “I believe that we feel homesick because we’re not yet familiar with our new environment.”

When we’re feeling homesick, it’s often tempting to stay inside rather than go out, but this can actually make us feel worse. The best way to overcome it is to try and immerse yourself in university life and Australia culture.  These tips will help you to feel more at home and adjust to life in Sydney.  

Attend Orientation

1. Attend Welcome Week: Senal, Sri Lanka

We can’t wait to welcome you to the University of Sydney, and have planned a full program of welcome activities to help you settle in. You’ll find out important information about your new home in Australia, explore campus and meet new friends.

If you’re not sure how to take those first steps towards making friends at university, check out these tips from our students, and then try and put them into practice at Welcome Week.

Also keep an eye out for any welcome or social events run by your accommodation provider.  

“It’s very reassuring to live somewhere where there are other students in the same situation as you,” says Senal Munasinghe, a second-year engineering student. “International House has an amazing program for first years, which helped me and quite a few of my friends to get through the initial period, which everyone said would be the toughest.” 

You can also sign up for the Welcome to Sydney program, where you'll be connected with alumni, staff and friends of the University through small and relaxed events. 

2. Go sightseeing: Mimi, Zambia

“The best way to deal with homesickness is to keep yourself occupied," says Mimi Yaluma, a third-year engineering student. "Go sightseeing, make new friends and just engage in social activities you enjoy.”

“Try to visit as many places as you can to take in the culture, so you can adapt smoothly and grow to love the place,” agrees Ayaka Ho, a first-year international and global studies student.

Start with the most well-known tourist locations – after all, our beautiful landmarks are what make Sydney world-famous. Explore the city first as a tourist; it’s more fun that way and you won’t need to worry if you don’t feel like a local straight away.

Write a bucket list of all the places you’d like to visit while you’re in Australia. This will help to keep you motivated and give you something to look forward to. 

3. Try new things: Thameesha, Sri Lanka

Living away from home is a big change, so your homesickness might be linked with learning how to be independent.

“Living away from home means stepping out of your comfort zone. While it’s easier said than done, the more you expand your comfort zone the better you’ll feel about everything,” says second-year architecture student Thameesha Eliyapura.

“Try out things that you’ve never had the courage to do before. To speed the process, make yourself a weekly challenge of completing something new – even if it means visiting the most random market or second-hand bookstore, or hunting for the best gelato!” 

4. Communicate with home: Ayaka, China and Japan

If you’re feeling homesick, a phone call or Skype chat with a loved one back home is often just what you need.

“Talk to your family and friends when you’re adapting to a new environment,” Ayaka recommends. “If you share your thoughts and feelings, then people will be able to find ways to help you settle in.”

But aim to set reasonable limits on the communication – if you’re constantly in touch, it can be harder to focus on what’s happening here and you might feel like you’re missing out on things back home.

Instead of always staying inside (and trying to navigate time zones), find ways to connect with loved ones while you’re exploring the city. You could write postcards and letters, or find small Australian gifts to send home to friends. This will help you discover things that you’re excited to share. 

5. Keep yourself busy and socialise: Lingling, China

 “I try to focus on my plan and goals for studying here so that I can keep myself busy and not give myself time to overthink too much,” says Lingling. “I also participate in societies and social events according to my interests, to literally immerse myself in a situation where I can make more friends and discover more about my new environment.”

With more than 200 clubs and societies, there are plenty of opportunities for you to meet people with similar interests and discover new hobbies. Clubs and societies also host social events throughout the semester (and you often don’t need to be a club member to attend), so keep an eye out on the University of Sydney Union’s events page.

If you need someone to talk to, the University offers free one-on-one counselling for our students. You can also reach out to our international student support team.

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