Updated: Feb 19
Loneliness and homesickness are, unfortunately, real problems among university students.
The stress that derives from school work, extracurricular activities and from the effort put into living alone can leave you wishing you were back at home, eating cooked meals and snuggling with your stuffed animals. It's even tougher if your home is far away and there are thousands of kilometres or oceans separating you from your loved ones.
When dealing with homesickness, it's important to strike a balance between adjusting to a new environment and maintaining your connection to the past. This may be difficult at first, and it surely requires great effort.
The first advice to cope with homesickness and loneliness is not to forget that these feelings are normal and common. Give yourself the permission to experience such emotions and don't be ashamed of this. Remember that getting over homesickness takes time. Always make an effort to exercise patience throughout the procedure. Once you have accepted it, it’s time to find an outlet for your emotions. While some people may favour artistic endeavours like dancing, literature, or art, others could favour physical activities like team sports or exercise. Others could choose to socialise or isolate themselves to deal with their negative emotions.
Utilise any channel you feel is best for you. When you are unhappy, it is normal to feel unmotivated, which might cause you to avoid doing things that could be beneficial to you. Encourage yourself to try something constructive, even for a brief period of time.
Leaving your comfort zone is a crucial step in becoming accustomed to a new situation. Although it may seem frightening and overwhelming, you must do this in order to advance. Think about looking for locations, events, or organisations that interest you. Try something you liked to do when you lived somewhere else. You'll get more at ease if you make an effort to get to know a new place. CREA, the student cultural centre of UvA, for instance, organises courses of all kinds; these range from storytelling to design, from painting to theatre. Check them out here: https://www.crea.nl/cursussen/?lang=en&gclid=Cj0KCQiA_P6dBhD1ARIsAAGI7HCap7phaShSSfASE_trd0bvAF1_kf7zzgST-6PnyFXB8GNQd8e9yAkaAjFIEALw_wcB.
Furthermore, do not forget to always stay connected to your loved ones. Consider also creative ways of staying in touch. Writing letters, video chats or group video calls. Try your best not to isolate yourself from your former home!
Moreover, in Amsterdam, during this period of the year, when daylight lasts for no more than eight hours, is also pretty typical to experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more commonly known as Seasonal Depression or winter blues. SAD is a subtype of mood disorders in which people who generally have a good mental health, experience depressive symptoms at the same time every year, usually in winter. Oversleeping, being overly emotional, or crying more than usual, and overeating are common symptoms.
The ideal treatment for SAD would be light and psychoeducation, which is understanding why people experience worsening symptoms as the number of hours of darkness increases. Keep your room as light and airy as possible, have a healthy diet, make sure you have the right amount of vitamin D and do not underestimate your symptoms. If you feel you need some help, contact someone competent.
Our University offers free Psychological help to students that feel in need. Find more information here https://student.uva.nl/en/topics/student-psychologists.
Try not to disrespect your mental health.
Article by Alessia Brisa