As University Mental Health Day is approaching we just thought we would give you a few hints and tips on how to survive uni so far away from home.
So you’ve made it here, you’ve made the brave and bold move to leave your home country, your friends and your family, all in pursuit of new experiences, freedom, opportunities and a degree. However, it’s only a matter of time before the homesickness kicks in, loneliness looms and life gets a little too real, and you realise you cannot just, “dash home for the weekend for some good old TLC and mom’s cooking.” These are just a few of the realities of being an international student. Adjusting to the new environment can be difficult and for some, even getting used to the weather is something they have to work on. However, it is all part of the beautiful experience of studying abroad. So here are just a few tips on how to reduce the culture shock, combat the homesickness and make the best of your university experience.
- Have a little piece of home with you
One of the best ways to combat homesickness is by always having a little bit of home with you. This can be your national flag, local foods, an item of clothing, a national emblem…just anything you could possibly think of that will make you feel at home.
- Meet new people
One of the most amazing parts of being an international student is the fact that you are surrounded by so many people from different cultures, backgrounds and countries. Put yourself out there and get to know them! Making friends is not always easy but there are a number of ways the process can be made a little less difficult. These include: joining sporting clubs, being part of a society or starting one yourself! Don’t sit it out. University is different from other institutions. Nobody will come and get the other kids to sit and talk to you. You have to make that first step for yourself.
- Stay in touch
Aren’t we just blessed to be living in an era with instant messages, free calling and video calls? Keep in touch with all your family and friends. Having someone to talk and confide in is so important, so pick up your phone and call!
- Find your country mates
Having someone who also does not understand why it rains here all the time or who shares your sentiments when you say, “I can’t hear a word they are saying” is important. There is no greater joy than knowing you aren’t alone in your daily struggles. So, find people from your country or region to stay in touch with. They will also form part of your little pieces of home and will be there for you to exclaim “I KNOW, right!!,” when you come across those OMG culture shock moments.
- Go see someone
If you’re really low and down and you feel none of these things are working then seek help. The university has loads of places where we can get counselling on Mental Health. The Wellbeing Service offers self-help resources (check out the online one called ‘SilverCloud’ – it is free for all Swansea students), stress control courses, counselling and group programmes. If you want to chat to someone who knows what student life feels like, talk to your part-time and full-time officers of the Student Union. Most of them are students as well or they just graduated. The Student Union’s office door is always open for everyone to come in for a chat or some advice! If you are struggling with money issues, academic troubles, and housing problems it would be worth visiting the Advice and Support Centre. The Advice and Support Centre literally covers all areas of student problems – they can even advise you on legal issues and support you with any personal matters. You are not alone – enough people are there who are willing to help you get on your feet.
- Explore all the available services on campus
There are so many services you can use, and it seems like there is always something new happening on campus. Check out the Swansea University website for all the services and events. Faith@CampusLife, for example, offers more spaces for everyone no matter what faith, culture, gender or sexual orientation. You can find quiet spaces for meditation, prayer or just to relax in the Lighthouse (located to the right-hand side of Fulton). There is also a small kitchen to have a coffee or tea. The Listening Service is available for everyone who just wants to talk to someone of the Faith Team, no matter if there is a problem or not.
And if you are still struggling with the English language or grammar (no worries, even native people do), the Centre for Academic Access is there to help you. They offer free courses to improve your academic writing, basic grammar, pronunciation or academic listening.
- Discover all the beautiful places in and around Swansea
If you think Swansea is boring and has nothing to offer – you’re wrong. As soon as the sun comes out (I promise it does now and then) and you tried Joe’s ice cream for the first time you will start loving this place. Take a bus to the Gower – Three Cliffs Bay and Rhossili are particularly nice. And if that is not enough for you, the SU Travel shop organizes trips to cities such as Bath, Dublin or even Paris for a small price. Definitely worth trying it out.