University is a diverse, multi-cultural hub and can offer so many opportunities to experience new languages, customs, and cultures. However, in those first few weeks, this can be slightly overwhelming at times whether you’re an international student or from just across the border (be it physical or the north/south divide).
When you’re feeling like hopping on the next plane, train, or automobile out of here, my best piece of advice is to seek out the society that represents where you’re from or similar. When my nervy fresher self was feeling unbearably homesick, I grabbed various items of red clothing, a flag, and headed off to John Gandy’s to meet my Welsh brethren. Truth be told, it was possibly the best decision I made all freshers week. Simply hearing someone say ‘ears’ the same way as me (like yurs) and greeting me with ‘alright butt how’s it going alright?’ settled my nerves instantly. Or that might have been the free tequila. Either way, it gave me a year of regular socials which culminated with a weekend in Edinburgh which coincidentally was the weekend of the Wales vs Scotland six nations match (Wales lost. There were tears).
Perhaps the best thing was that eons old idea that everyone in Wales knows each other came true; I bumped into people I met maybe once in year 9 and discovered they lived in the same county borough as me. I’d gone from feeling like an ogre in a sea of southerners to having some sense of belonging to the Exeter community.
When you’re feeling like hopping on the next plane, train, or automobile out of here, my best piece of advice is to seek out the society that represents where you’re from
For those students, whose first language isn’t English or speak their regional dialects, I can imagine this effect is amplified tenfold. To talk to people who understand what your home is like, can empathise with you, really is invaluable.
Of course, there’s a risk that these societies can cause some kind of division, that these groups can prevent integration but I think it’s honestly just how you use them. For me, Welsh Soc is a little pocket outside of my flat just for me, something that is my own and a key part of my identity as an Exeter student and a South Walian. My principal friendship group are from my course and my house, rooted firmly in the midlands, but it’s always nice to have ‘oh Port Talbot girl’ shouted at you from across the Unit 1 smoking area.
On the flip side, for some people, homesickness can be made worse. Perhaps too many reminders of home can prevent you from settling in fully or leave a lingering feeling of insecurity. The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Even a Devon local will get a little bit homesick from time to time, it’s natural. It will pass, after a week or so, it’ll feel as though you’ve been in Exe your whole life, eventually you might even call it home.
You never lose that sense of belonging to your home town and a weekend back here and there are like little gems scattered throughout the year. However, these societies give you the best of both worlds. Your friendship group can become international, but you’ve still got pals to belt out your national anthem with after a few pints.