Leaving home for the first time, be it starting university or becoming a term time border can be an anxious time for both the student and the family. All the creature comforts of home, such as your own room and the fully stocked fridge can feel thousands of miles away when you have to learn to share a dormitory or halls of residence with 8 other strangers.
I can remember waving goodbye to my parents after an early car drive up to Manchester from Worcestershire and being left alone in my new room. It all became very real that I would have to look after myself for the next four years. Where would I shop for food? WouldI be able to get up in time for lectures? Who’s going to pick me up at 2am from the club? All these little worries that 3 months ago just didn’t exist.
Could I be homesick after only 10 minutes? Would I be on the phone home after a few days pleading to come back home? What happens when I’ve run out of clean clothes?
Luckily for me one of my new housemates knocked on the door and handed me a drink and the rest the say is history, all the nervousness soon evaporated as we got stuck into Freshers/Welcome Week activities and my course got underway.
Now I’m a parent I will probably have a new set of worries that will bounce around my head when the time comes that we take our daughters off to university. Although you could argue that keeping in touch is far easier nowadays than it used to be. Waiting in line for the payphone at the bottom of the stairs in the halls of residence was quite common on a Sunday afternoon, hoping that someone back home would be in to answer. Technology has certainly come along way in 20 years.
Keeping in touch doesn’t have to be about phone calls and text. I can remember receiving a package from my grandparents, comprising of a few favourite treats, marzipan sweets in this case and a copy of my favourite magazine.
This was my little box of home, as growing up my Gran (who was cake maker) used to give me the off cuts of icing and marzipan from her cake decorating as a treat. These little parcels always seemed to come at the right time, be it before a coursework submission or at a time where I would be missing my mum’s Sunday roast.
So what would be my advice to you if are about to wave your child or teenager off on their next academic adventure? Don’t worry, yes they will get a little homesick but you will probably feel more anxious than them. A little taste of home will go a long way to give them that warm feeling inside that your still thinking about them even through they are far away.
Steve's top 5 tips to survive going away to university for students (and parents)
- Set ground rules for keeping in touch, nothing heavy maybe a couple of texts a week. You'll be surprised that they will phone more often as they are not being pressurised into calling you.
- Give a little responsibility before they go. This could be something small such as waking up without you nudging them every 5 minutes to washing their own clothes. You'll still be around if they truly make a right mess but by instilling a little independence will make all the difference when they head off.
- Cooking lessons. By making sure that they can cook a basic meal (beans on toast and rewarming pizza doesn't count) will make sure that they will eat well and can even impress your housemates and potential boyfriend/girlfriend ;) .
- Make sure they have some cake, sweets (or beer) when they first arrive. This is a great icebreaker when meeting your new flatmates and provides your with an easy conversation opener. Offering food to your new neighbours makes a good first impression. As they say, the way to the heart is through the stomach!
- A little taste of home. Every now and then a little package of their favourite treats sent through the mail will lift spirits. This can be a little as a hand written note, remember its the thought that counts.
There you have it, going to university or starting boarding school is a huge moment in both you and your children's lives. Before you know it they will be back home in 12 or so weeks for Christmas leaving clothes all over the floor and a weeks worth of washing up under their bed!
Do you have any tips or experiences that you wish to share with us about starting university or becoming a school boarder?