How to cope with homesickness on your Year Abroad

– Trisha Mukerjee

Being away from home does seem exciting, but once you cross the bridge, you realise what home really means to you. In the first year of living abroad, homesickness is quite natural for students. It’s important to remember that this is an important part of growing up and becoming independent.  This feeling of missing home needs to be acknowledged in a constructive way and then work towards curbing and turning it into a strength rather than a reason to give up.

While at the time of your lowest, moving back home might seem tempting and it would require some sort of patience to keep a hold on to this feeling. Here are a few ways to help with the feeling of homesickness.

1. Take the initiative to make new friends: When you are in a different country, you should make sure that you take the initiative to make new friends. Even if you feel left out, and find it quite difficult to make friends, it’s worth it – friends are so important! No matter how difficult is it, it’s worth making the effort and taking the first step.

You could do any of the following:

  • Invite people over or go out with your classmates; make an effort to introduce yourself,
  • Mix in a diverse crowd! Going abroad is an opportunity to meet people you would never have met back home – so embrace it and don’t let any first impressions stop you from trying to get to know someone.
  • Don’t worry if you are naturally an introvert or a shy person – people will still want to be friends with you! People generally gel on well with shy and introvert people; they are often viewed as sympathetic and a termed as good listeners.
  • Lastly, remember that friendships grow gradually. Don’t force yourself on someone – let them take time to get to know you.

2. Try to enjoy your own company: At certain times, it really doesn’t matter if you have friends around you or not. Being abroad is also a chance to learn to enjoy your own company, and look after your wellbeing. One of the best ways to avoid being home sick is to be busy. Having a lot on your plate, helps you not to think too much about what you are missing at home You could try doing the following things to keep yourself busy and occupied:

    1. Sports, physical exercise, yoga, dance etc.
    2. Reading, or trying out creative hobbies like photography, writing, drawing etc.
    3. Pick up part time work that you like – this is also another way you could meet new people
    4. Explore your surroundings: When you have nothing better to do, go around the campus, explore every inch of it. Travel around! If you have the money you could even buy a bike, and cycle around.
    5. You could even try some volunteering work. If you’re at a university abroad, some campuses have a community development centre, where volunteering opportunities are advertised. Volunteering is a worthwhile activity, but it’s also good for your mental health.

3. Stay connected to your family and friends: Never ever lose touch with your family and friends from home. They’re a valuable source of support and can really boost your mood if you’re down. Whenever you miss them, just Skype or call them. In this digital world, communication has become incredibly easy across international borders.

4. If things are getting really bad, get support. Contact your university support services back at home, and if you’re at a university abroad, visit the counselling services. Talk to them, and don’t lose hope. Often, you’ll be able to get the support you need without having to come back home, but equally don’t feel like you’re necessarily making a mistake or ‘giving up’ by going back – the most important thing is to make sure that you’re getting the support you need so that things don’t get worse.

Cultivate a social life, keep yourself busy, enjoy course work and always remember – your home is always there for you. Now is the time to grow and spread your wings!

Trisha MukerjeeAuthor Bio: Trisha is a professional writer and adviser on education and careers. She is an ardent reader, a traveller and a passionate photographer. She wants to explore the world and write about whatever comes across her way.

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How volunteering can help you

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– Grace Anderson

Graduating from university fills many students with dread. The prospect of being outside the university bubble and having to “grow up” and get a “real job” in the “real world” is a daunting experience for many. This is why getting the experience before you leave could help you out in the long run.

Yes, I understand you may have a lot of work on at university, but this could reduce your future stress! Personally, I know that you can get a degree whilst volunteering at the same time, providing you don’t put too much on yourself. Trust me – it’s possible (remember how many hours there are in a day!).

Going out and doing something outside of university may be just what you need, giving you the chance to forget about all your academic worries and focus instead on something else. Do you want to put a spring in your step? This can happen through volunteering. Simply by giving up a few hours of your time, you can help others and make a difference, and you’ll feel happier as a result.

Research conducted by Citizens Advice Bureau indicated that volunteering boosts self-esteem, employability and health, especially mental health. So not only does volunteering benefit the people you help, but it can, most importantly, help you! It can provide you with the ability to cope and come to terms with your own illness, take your mind off your own problems, meet new people, and develop a sense of purpose.

I can guarantee (even if you don’t personally believe it) that you have a skillset that you can provide to services and causes near your university. It might be excellent communication, team work, or having a passion for working with children or people with special needs. You could be an asset to a company or organisation, and all you have to do is offer your services to them. Not only do they gain your help but you also grow and develop as a person and learn more skills to better equip you for life after university.

Do something today and make a difference not only to your personal health but to your community – and your future.

Student Volunteering Week is an annual campaign with the aim to raise awareness of the value of student volunteering, celebrate the impact of existing work in the community and inspire more students to get involved and make a difference in society.

If you’ve been inspired by this post to consider volunteering for Student Minds, check out our Get Involved page to find out all the ways you can join the work we do, whether that’s online or offline, on campus or elsewhere!

So, I want to tell my friends…

– Ruth Beacon

Uni Mental Health Day is upon us and this year Student Minds is focusing on opening up to friends about Mental Health issues. First off, I want to say a huge well done for making the choice to tell your friends that you have a mental health problem. The recent “Time to Talk” campaign aimed to tackle the awkwardness and stigma that surrounds conversations about mental health. It is somewhat reassuring that the difficulty and reluctancy in talking to friends/colleagues/family is not just suffered by you – everyone finds this difficult.

There is a way out, we must actively do something to change this and together as a network of people we can help each other talk more about mental health. University can be an incredibly lonely place, especially if you suffer with a mental health problem; anything could spark off feelings of anxiety, compulsiveness or sadness. This is why it vital that you tell someone you can trust, in order that they can keep you accountable and safe. So you may be thinking … “I am scared”, “what if people judge me?” or “how do I even tell my friends?!” . Well, here are a few tips on opening up…

  1. Write down your feelings: when you write how you feel it is easier to comprehend your thoughts and emotions. Writing them down enables you to think deeper into what and why you feel a certain way, perhaps you could then read this aloud to a friend.
  2. Rehearse what you will say: after writing something down you may want to practice what you will say. This may take the edge off or reduce anxiety. Remember – it’s ok to be scared and nervous. You are doing something very courageous which you will most likely thank yourself for
  3. Go to a familiar place to have the conversation: you and your friend may have a favourite spot to hang out – by going there to open up, it may relax you because it brings back good memories. This could be your Student Union centre, coffee shop or local park.

In the spirit of the campaign to disclose to friends at university, I am going to tell you how I told my friends in the hope that this will inspire you.

When I decided to tell my friends at university that I had been diagnosed with anorexia and depression and decided to take the year off studying to focus on my mental health, I had no idea how to do it! I knew that a big group of my church friends would be meeting up for the weekly student group and I felt this was the right time to do it as I was then, in the middle of treatment. I wrote down everything I wanted to say and emailed it to a close friend to read on my behalf as I wasn’t able to be there in person. I explained my diagnosis, where I was and how I felt. I was scared, very emotional and confused.

After, I am happy to say that I got a lot of wonderful, loving comments giving me hope and inspiration that I was doing the right thing. My friends reassured me that they would be there to support and encourage me to carry on, even when it felt rough and too hard to handle.

So, to everyone reading this, thank you. To those who are going to open up to their friend(s), it is such a relief once you tell someone, you don’t feel alone anymore and someone is there – to listen, to give you a hug or a pat on the back, telling you to carry on because it gets easier and life gets brighter.

University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day is an annual event to promote the mental health of those who live and work in higher education settings. To find out how to get involved in the day, and to find out more about the #IChoseToDisclose campaign, visit www.studentminds.org.uk/uni-mental-health-day.

How you can get support at university

– Becky McCerery

University is a place of new experiences, new people and new priorities! It’s no surprise then to find a large majority of students experience stress, mental distress and sometimes even isolation during this big period of change. There are, thankfully, many ways your university can support you if you have had difficulties concerning your mental health. Not only can they provide preventatives so your risk of struggling in the future is greatly reduced, but they can also make sure the impact of stress from exams is cushioned by a support network and fun releases. Here are some ways to make sure university is a supportive environment for you:

  • Keep your university in the loop – If you start struggling, whether that be with mental health difficulties or exam stress, your university needs to know! They can help and support you whilst making sure you stay on top of your work and assignments. If you have struggled with mental health in the past (even if you feel you are coping when you first start the semester) applying for DSA (Disabled Students Allowance), putting your name down for guided self-help group classes or even just letting your lecturers know that you have experienced mental health difficulties and distress previously will be of a huge benefit to you. Unless they’re in the loop, your university won’t be able to give you leniency on deadlines, support you through stressful times and let you access mental health support on campus. All of this will make your journey through university much smoother.
  • Join a club or a society – Make university life fun and enjoyable by joining a society to meet like minded people; it’ll help you build a strong support network. In addition, joining a sports team will up your activity levels and give a healthy stress release, which will make the stressful times more manageable! Making the most of your time at university is vitally important. While generally the main reason you’re at university is to bag that degree and pave your way into a dream job, there’s thousands of opportunities while you’re there to make friends and explore new interests.
  • Consult your GP – It’s vitally important that one of the first things you do when you move away from home for university is register with a local GP. If you’ve had mental health difficulties in the past, book an appointment at the beginning of your semester to let them know about your past – it’ll make accessing any professional help through the NHS easier and more efficient. Your GP can recommend any group therapies or charities local to you in your new city, or get you in touch with mental health services to support you for as long as you need.
  • Stress and Time Management – I’m a huge advocate for perfecting stress and time management skills! They will be invaluable throughout your life, but they are of particular importance at university. Your institute should let you know of deadlines in advance, and with the correct time and stress management techniques (you’ll find what works best for you) these deadlines should be attainable. Even so, an unforeseen incident may occur that affects your ability to meet these deadlines whilst producing work to the best of your ability. If this is the case, your institute will be able to extend deadlines, give authorised absences and even cater your exams towards your new needs.

A lot of people see their university as a source of stress and worry. They feel bogged down by deadlines and revision and can feel isolated and sometimes hopeless as things to start piling up. But by being aware of what your particular institute could do for you as well as implementing any preventative measures to make your time studying a little more plain sailing, you can really make the difference between looking back on your time at university and thinking: “That was so stressful and difficult – I’m so glad it’s over” or thinking: “Wow, that was hard work – but what an incredible ride!”

Using whiteboards in your campaign – Sunderland

This year we’ve been collecting best practice from around the country on student mental health campaigning. Recently, Sunderland ran a campaign using whiteboards. Whiteboard campaigns are all the rage these days – and it’s easy to understand why. They’re visual, you can share the photos onto lots of people’s Facebook feeds by tagging the people in them, and they’re a great way of presenting lots of people’s views and experiences. Sunderland recently used whiteboards at their Wellbeing event, so we asked them how they organised it and what happened.

So, Sunderland, what was the event?

We went around both university campuses (City campus and St Peters) with a whiteboard asking people what they do to keep themselves well and happy.

What was the response?

We got over 60 whiteboard responses and we uploaded most of these reposes to our Facebook page. We found this event a real success because it was the first time we have managed to engage with a large amount of students from varying courses on the university so we were really happy, especially as we got to talk about our campaign group to a lot of students who we wouldn’t usually get to reach so it helped us raise the profile of our group a lot.

What do you think went well?

I think what went well for this event was instead of having a stall where people have to approach us we actively approached them and started the conversation. In the past, when we have set up a stall we have struggled to get people involved so this method was really effective and really fun too.

Any pictures of the event?

Yes!

We hope this has inspired you with ideas for future Student Minds campaigns or events! Remember, if you want to tell us about an event you’ve run, all you need to do is fill in our event form!

How to run a Comedy Evening Fundraiser – Sheffield

Wondering how to fundraise for Student Minds but don’t know what kind of event to run? Do you enjoy putting on events that involve humans? Do you like humour? Sheffield recently ran a comedy evening in collaboration with the politics society, and raised a huge amount of money. We interviewed them about their experience!

Sheffield, tells us the who/what/where/when!

The Mental Health Matters Society organised a comedy evening (Stand Up For Mental Health) in collaboration with the Politics Society at the University. The evening was held in an upstairs bar at the local vodka revolution. It went on from 8pm to 10pm and included the University comedy society as well as two other comedians we found on a website.

How do you think it went?

We have had a lot of positive feedback from the evening! We included references to mental health on the publicity we distributed and began by discussing mental health stigma and how important it is to go fight it. We also managed to raise over £500, which we were really pleased about.

What do you think went well?

It was great to collaborate with another society, as this meant we had help with publicity and made it easier to organise. We had buckets present on the evening which was really helpful for raising money. For publicity we contacted the University and managed to get the event advertised on the University Website which was really helpful. Finally, we did leafleting throughout the week leading up to the evening.

What do you think could have made it better?

We had a few issues with the venue, I would recommend going to look around before hand.

I would also recommend making sure to be prepared that when working with comedians there is a chance that they won’t be able to make it at the last moment!

On the whole, though, it was a really enjoyable event and also was really great for helping to get more people of our society and talking about mental health.

We hope this has inspired you with ideas for future Student Minds events! Remember, if you want to tell us about an event you’ve run, you can fill in our events form here!

How to run a freshers’ week stall – what Cardiff Student Minds learnt

Stuck for ideas on how to attract volunteers at the freshers’ fair? We interviewed Cardiff Student Minds about their experience running a stall, asked about their successes, and found out what could have made the event even better.

So, Cardiff, what was on the stall?

We held 4 stalls; 1 at Cardiff Met, 1 at Cardiff University Cathays Campus, 1 at Cardiff University Heath Campus and 1 at Cardiff’s volunteering fayre. We gave out keyrings, pens, information booklets and business cards. We had a fancy dress photo booth, and a ‘#look after your mate’ sign to use in photos. We also ran a prize draw – everyone who liked our Facebook page, followed us on Twitter and signed up to our mailing list was entered into a draw to win some prizes!

Did you get a lot of sign-ups?

During Fresher’s week we have had 193 students sign up to our mailing list, over 70 new Facebook likes and over 30 new Twitter followers. We have also had a lot of interest from students who are keen to help out with our events and campaigns, so we have set up a Cardiff volunteers Facebook group which has almost 50 students in. Our Facebook photo album ‘#lookafteryourmate snaps’ reached 481 people and had 378 post clicks.

What do you think went well?

We found that taking photos with the #look after your mate sign worked extremely well, as students having their photo taken asked what it was all about, so it was a good way of starting a conversation about the campaign.

Having some freebies to give out was also successful, as it was a good way to get students interested in our stall, and talking to our volunteers about what Student Minds is all about.

What do you think could have made it better?

We found that the fancy dress aspect of the photo booth didn’t work very well, so in the end we just took pictures with the #lookafteryourmate sign. Also, we started taking the mailing list by hand, but we quickly realised it was difficult to read some students’ handwriting, so in later stalls we then used a laptop.

Any pictures of the event?

Yes!

Cardiff Student Minds Freshers' Fayre Stall #Lookafteryourmate Cardiff#Lookafteryourmate Cardiff#Lookafteryourmate CardiffCardiff Student Minds Freshers' Fayre Stall    #Lookafteryourmate Cardiff#Lookafteryourmate Cardiff

We hope this has inspired you with ideas for future Student Minds events! Remember, if you want to tell us about an event you’ve run, you can fill in our internal feedback form through the internal section of the website.