Making new friends and dealing with homesickness

It’s common for new students to feel some anxiety about finding and making new friends – especially if they’re moving away from home.

If your child is one of them, remind them that most students tend to arrive at the same time, many of them won’t know anyone else either, and they’re probably feeling the same way.

There’s lots of opportunities to meet people, here are five tips to get them started:

Tip 1 – Don’t wait until you get there

Even before you arrive, you can start the process.

  • Most universities have moderated social media accounts for new students.
  • Once your place is confirmed, sign in and find your university hall, block, corridor or flatmates, your course, or clubs and societies you’re interested in joining.
  • Don’t be shy – join in. It’ll make the first day so much better to know names, faces, and a bit about people ahead of time.

Student, age 18

Introduce yourself to everyone you meet or sit next to in lectures because you never know who might turn out to be your good friends.

Tip 2 – Be a welcoming flatmate

If you’re living away from home, your flatmates are likely to be the first people you meet.

  • You might have a shared kitchen or lounge – if you hear people are in it, take a deep breath, put on a big smile and go and say hello.
  • Keep a packet of biscuits in your room to share with anyone who drops by.

Tip 3 – Get to know those who have similar interests

You’ll see the people on your course regularly and you already have a subject interest in common.

  • If you’re on a course where there are hundreds of other people in your lectures, then it might feel difficult to talk to anyone. But we’re creatures of habit and we often sit in the same place so you’re likely to start recognising the same faces. Smile and say hello.
  • Join societies and clubs that you have a genuine interest in. It gives you something to do with others and if you’re focused on something, you’re less likely to experience awkward silences.

Student, age 19

Don’t worry… there’s thousands of people there so if you don’t click with people straight away, give it time.

Tip 4 – Keep in touch with family and old friends

They can be a wonderful, reassuring, supportive network. They’re likely to be missing you and will be delighted to speak to you.

  • Try not to go home too early. Give yourself time to get used to things.
  • But, booking a trip home – just knowing that it’s planned – can take a bit of pressure off you and lift your spirits.
  • Instead of going home, you could invite friends and family to visit so you can show them your new surroundings.

Tip 5 – Social media: recognise that it’s a life through a filter

Remember that people tend to carefully curate their posts e.g. when they’re looking their best or they’re in a fun place, not the everyday, the mundane, the boring.

  • Looking at other peoples’ social media can make you feel low, make you feel bad about yourself, and create FOMO (fear of missing out).
  • When friends’ posts show them having the most amazing time at university, you might feel it’s only you who’s not having #thebesttimeever.

But social media can also be a force for good. For example:

  • It enables you to communicate with other people remotely and helps maintain existing relationships when you’re geographically distant from each other – therefore helping you to feel less lonely and isolated.
  • People commonly discuss, in real life, what they’ve seen online – so it’s something to talk about.

Most importantly, remind your child that feeling lonely, sad, and homesick are common feelings amongst new students. Know that they’re not alone and, for most students, over time they’ll become more settled and those feelings will pass.

All the best,

Melissa Scallan
Parent, journalist, researcher, and author of ‘The Essential Student Guide: Starting University