Blog post

Dealing with homesickness as an international student

First-year Journalism student, Cecília Dettmer Gonçalves, shares her advice on how to deal with homesickness as an international student. 

By Cecília Dettmer Gonçalves - 9 March 2023

It is normal to feel homesick at university. For many of us, this is the first time living away from home. The new challenges presented to us can feel quite scary at times: managing our routines, diets, sleeping schedules, assignments, and making friends can be daunting. These new experiences can make us miss our families and friends, leading to homesickness. 

Missing home can be tougher for international students. We’re settling into uni life and also adapting to a new country and culture. And whilst feeling homesick is natural we still have to learn how to cope with it to help maintain good mental health. Here are some of the things that helped me deal with homesickness as an international student. 

Watch TV shows from your home country

Streaming services are game changers. We’re just a couple of clicks away from our favourite TV shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Disney+ etc.  

I found that watching the reality shows, soap operas and TV shows I grew up with helped me a lot when missing home. They are a great way to feel more connected to our cultures and hear our native languages. With some of these shows, you can also see important landmarks from home that you might be missing too. 

As a Brazilian, soap operas are a huge part of my culture. Whenever I miss home, I like to watch episodes of soap operas that marked my childhood and pre-teen years, such as Avenida Brasil or Cheias de Charme.  

Watching these TV shows helps me to keep in touch with the latest discussions from my home country. Now I always have something to talk about with my friends and family. 

Two people sitting down with popcorn and a stack of DVDs between them.

Cook meals that you would eat at home

There is nothing better than eating a delicious meal that your family used to cook back home. Sometimes, tasty food can feel like a warm hug. 

Food is one of my favourite ways to feel closer to home. With a trip to the supermarket, you can buy the ingredients needed to cook the dishes you’ve grown up with.  

Luckily, Derby is full of markets that offer a great variety of world foods. If you live around the University Quarter, Lidl is a good option for a big market with a wide range of offerings. Their middle section includes traditional ingredients. Normanton Road is another place with lots of specialised markets where you can buy all your ingredients for a cooking session. 

Take the cooking process as a fun experience too. Chopping, cooking, stirring and boiling according to the recipe always brings back memories. And if you’re sharing the kitchen, this can turn into a happy moment for your flatmates too! 

My favourite candy from home is brigadeiro – truffles made of condensed milk and chocolate powder. I love preparing it on rainy days, followed by long movie sessions. It is the best snack.   

Join societies, sports teams and attend events

Joining a society or a sports team can completely change your university experience for the better. Meeting like-minded people to do something that you enjoy is very soothing. It can also help you feel more at home by reconnecting to things you already enjoy. 

These meetings and events are a great place to make friends and create a support group. As an international student, your friends usually end up being your chosen family, since they are closer to you and know what you’re going through. So having a support group is crucial.  

You might even be interested in joining societies for international students, such as the Afro-Caribbean Society, the Indian Society, or the Nigerian Students Society

Individual about to throw a basketball at the hoop

Look for part-time jobs and volunteering opportunities

Visas and busy study routines might not always allow us to take part in full-time jobs. But, if possible, I would highly suggest looking for a part-time activity.  

Part-time jobs are amazing opportunities to make friends and earn some extra budget. I made great friends through the Communications Ambassador scheme. Many of them were also international students that I could count on when I felt homesick.  

The University and Union of Students offer a wide variety of part-time jobs and internship schemes. You can work and study from the same place, which makes everything super practical. These jobs also help you get familiarised with the uni sites and events. 

Find out more about opportunities at the University

Be kind to yourself and don't be afraid to ask for help 

Don’t forget that homesickness is normal. Everyone feels blue every once in a while. So accepting these feelings and letting them flow is very important.  

As international students, we’re not only adapting to uni life, but also to a new culture. This is a process that takes time and we must always be kind to ourselves. Leaving our home to pursue our studies in a different country is a very brave action, but even the bravest people need help every now and then. Remember, it is more than alright to ask for help. 

The University offers Student Wellbeing Support. You can book an appointment through their online form or get in touch by email at Alternatively, you can telephone on +44 (0) 1332 593000.

You can also visit the Student Wellbeing centre in person in B001 at the Kedleston Road site. They are open from 9am to 4.30pm, from Mondays to Tuesdays and 9am to 4pm on Fridays. 

About the author

Cecília standing by a lake.

Cecília Dettmer Gonçalves

I'm a Journalism student from Brazil. Right now, I'm doing an internship with the University's Student Engagement and Enhancement Team. Coffee, cats and graphic novels are my favourite things. When I'm not studying at the library, you will probably find me drinking bubble tea in the city centre. Hope to see you around.