For many, the thought of Freshers’ Week conjures up images of non-stop partying, a whirlwind introduction to university life and new places, opportunities and friendships.

But for some students it also brings a feeling of anxiety, isolation and the start of a long battle against homesickness.

This doesn’t have to define your university life, says our member Louise Knowles, Head of the University of Sheffield's counselling and psychological wellbeing service.

There are ways to get through it, she adds.

Culture shock

“Fresher’s Week can be a culture shock. Some students relish this and enjoy the excitement, but others are like a rabbit caught in headlights.

“We’ll get students who come through our doors earlier on who are wobbling and feeling homesick. All that’s needed is a light touch and encouragement. There are others who come to us later in the academic year where it’s more entrenched. It may be related to other issues too.”

Louise adds: “Being isolated affects your psychological wellbeing. When they start at university, many students have lost the comfort of home, someone to cook for then, that structure they had, their community of family and friends for support.

“It’s especially true for marginalised students – such as international, disabled or mature students. They can feel at a loss. They will wonder ‘is there anyone else like me here?’ or ‘where can I get support?’

Louise says having a sense of community can be key to helping a student overcome homesickness.

Sense of belonging

“They need to build up that sense of community, that sense of belonging.

“Some students can be very reserved. They might not be comfortable in large social groups or going out clubbing all the time with lots of new people.

“They might find it easier to join smaller, informal groups, and look for activities on a smaller scale to join in.

“We have to push ourselves a little bit to put ourselves out there and build a new community, but not to the depths of despair.”

There are university societies to pretty much cover every interest and hobby, as well as for specific groups of students, and they can often help people form a much-needed community to help them settle in.

Another thing that can help is preparation, said Louise.


“Some students haven’t had much preparation for university. If they’ve accepted a place through clearing they may not even known where they were going until a few weeks before. It does help to familiarise yourself with where you’re going and what life’s going to be like before it’s thrust on you in the first week of term.”

She adds Freshers Week and the following few weeks can be a bit of a blur.

It can be really exciting discovering all these new things. Some people want to jump in and do everything. Others want to familiarise themselves with university life more slowly.

“It’s important students remember to take it at a pace that they are comfortable with.”

To find a counsellor or psychotherapist visit our Therapist Directory.