It therefore came as a surprise to find that, when I arrived at university, initially I did not miss home at all. I was (as all of us were) caught up in the excitement of living in a new city, making new friends, settling into my courses, and generally enjoying my new-found freedom. It was somewhere in between weeks three and four that homesickness really hit me. But perhaps homesickness is the wrong word – it was not my old village, neighbouring city or even county that I missed, so much as my family. I phoned home a bit more frequently, and waited for my first reading week. I did not have to wait long, and as week five of my course came around I packed for a few days and headed back on the (blessedly short) train journey home.
Returning home (even just for five days) was the best thing I could have done. It showed me that nothing had really changed – my dad had not (as he had previously claimed) found a lodger to fill my place, and everything was just about the same. When I returned to university after reading week I found that my homesickness was cured, and I realised that I have no wish to return home after university. This is not, I hasten to add, a reflection on my family, but rather that I prefer my more independent lifestyle away from home. After the taste of freedom that university gives, I found it very difficult to live for a long period of time under my family’s roof, with my family’s rules.
When one of my friends also became homesick, she instead forced herself to stay for the whole first term. This resulted in her idealising her home, and she therefore struggled more with homesickness. Yet when she returned, her feelings seemed to be much the same as my own the first time I went back, except that building up her expectations for three months prior to leaving only caused the reality of home to be a slight disappointment to her, and not a comfort, as it had been in my experience.
Homesickness is, of course, different for everyone, depending on how close you are to your family, and how far away from them you are. However, in my experience, a short trip home after a month or so away is perfect to prove both to yourself and your parents (as they will probably struggle with missing you as well) that everything is just as it was. Leaving home is always a difficult experience for anyone, but it is an unavoidable part of growing up. Although it is natural to feel homesick, it is important to conquer these feelings, and continue with your life at university, for although life is changing in many ways, it is probably changing for the better.
Ailsa is in her first year of her degree at
University of Kent, Canterbury, studying English and Italian. The photo was taken on her daily walk to campus.