Hope Whitehead

Hailing from New Zealand’s biggest city, I was sure that I was well-versed in the ways of the big metropolis. Auckland has a population of around 1.6 million people, a somewhat trustworthy public transport system, and two entire H&Ms – moving to England wouldn’t be anything to worry about I thought. Not so, I discovered, travelling the wrong way in a tube carriage with more people packed in than perhaps my entire country, and absolutely nobody who laughed at the word ‘Cockfosters’.

Cambridge, too, was a shock. I’d been told it was a small town, so I envisioned one main street and a few sheep. Maybe some cobblestones - small town New Zealand doesn’t always have sealed roads. I certainly didn’t expect there to be traffic lights. Since I’d had my interview in Melbourne, arriving a couple of days before Freshers’ Week was the first I’d ever seen of Cambridge, which I’d previously imagined – along with Durham and Oxford – was in London.

After Mum left, it was just me and a college full of people who, while they might not have known each other before, didn’t all have accents that made them stick out in unfortunate ways: I am forever haunted by the time I told someone I had the texts for the course, only for her to think I’d said that I had ticks. The advice I’d had from my loving parents was to not worry about not making friends immediately because “you have to work hard with the English” – whatever that means. Convinced I wouldn’t make any friends at all and that the whole thing was a bad idea, it was fair to say the this was a pretty easy environment to feel homesick in. But these feelings don’t just magically disappear after Freshers’ Week, and although I’m in my third year now, those same feelings of missing home, my family, the warmth of the sun, and people that understand my accent, still sometimes surface.

Hope Whitehead

It can be difficult to feel fully settled in Cambridge, regardless of where you’re from. Hearing friends say “I might pop home for the weekend” sometimes makes me feel bitter with the same hardly being a feasible option, due to it being 18,000 kilometres away, not financially viable, nor a good use of my time during a stressful Cambridge term.

“It can be difficult to feel fully settled in Cambridge, regardless of where you’re from”

As someone who’s never popped anywhere near home during term, I’ve had to come up with some ways of coping. Even if you’re not that far from home, homesickness can affect any of us, and it’s worth having tricks up your sleeve just in case. My family loves a good singalong (often in public), so I’ve found making and listening to playlists of songs I might hear at home to be comforting.

Hope Whitehead

While English food is terrible and so they’ll never be exactly replicated, I’ve also gotten my parents to send me a few of the recipes they make at home. This is mainly because I can’t cook, but also because it’s a little reminder of home. In my first year especially, I’d video chat my parents regularly (although inevitably because of the time difference they’d call when I was on a night out so I can’t say this one’s foolproof). Crucially, this does not make you bad at coping with being away! It is actually a really smart way of making the transition easier and it improves immensely when your parents learn about all the weird filters they can use during the video call. Arranging to call home friends or siblings can be really reassuring as well – pretending to go the library instead is tiring and you’re better than that.


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It’s important, even when you’re nearing the end of uni, to know that you are definitely not the only person who might be feeling homesick, whether that’s because you’re missing the free food, or the sun setting at a reasonable hour, or all the foundation you can no longer use since you’re now two shades paler than when you started. Cambridge, where the phrase “weird flex but okay” came to die, is so full of people comparing how little sleep they’ve had and how many books they’ve not read, and yet the conversation rarely touches on homesickness. This is madness and you do not need to participate in it. One of the best coping methods for most things is having a chat with some friends – you’ll quickly find that you’re not alone, and at the very least, it’ll stop you talking about work for a bit.

If all else fails, it’s always okay to obnoxiously bring up where you’re from in every single conversation until you run out of friends and have to write for student newspapers instead!

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