Homesickness

To travel the world on your own can be a bit scary. You need to cope by yourself, and be responsible for food and a lot of practical things in your life, and to manage without parents or family around, even when you need them. Even though you have been looking forward to this, you may experience the occasional homesickness. Perhaps living here is quite different from what you prepared for

May emotions may occur when you’re alone in your room. Do you feel lonely or miss friends or a girlfriend/boyfriend? Perhaps some sort of grief over not being at home anymore? Taking care of every aspect of your life is a huge responsibility. Do you miss that someone is making dinner for your, saying good night or even nagging about things.

To some, missing a boyfriend or girlfriend is the hardest of all, while others feel insecure or alone. Some miss just being young and irresponsible, others have some second thoughts about the decision to move and start these studies. This may in turn give a sense of being depressed or sad.

Seek help before making hasty decisions you may regret later. The student counsellors are here for you.

Some key advice are: – Establish good routines concerning studies, food and sleep. – Work steadily. If you start thinking that this is awful, just give it a few more weeks and things usually turn out better. If you fall behind in your studies you will have yet another argument to quit. – Dare to be the first to make contact to build up a social network – remeber that the others will more likely want to have friends, too.– Det kan være lurt å ikke bo alene. – create a more kozy athmosphare in your room, so that you will enjoy being there. – Practise enjoying your own company – To some, staying too close in touch with people you miss back home, will reinforce the homesickness. Reducing contact may not be such a bad idea. – Try change your focus to think not only about missing people or your sadness, but rather how much you look forward to seeing them again later. – If you had any hobbies back home, you should keep doing them also here. Join activities, organisations, study groups, etc.  

Culture and Cross-Cultural Adaptation 

Many international students experience varying degrees of cultural transition when they first arrive in Norway. This often can include culture shock. Culture shock is a state of distress and bewilderment experienced by individuals exposed to new, strange, or foreign cultures. People experience culture shock in different ways, some with more anxiety than others. It helps to remember that this is a normal reaction to changes in your physical, social and cultural environment. You are not alone in your feelings of distress.

There is a general cycle of emotional states you experience when you enter a new culture. The stages of this cycle vary from one person to another in intensity and duration. Understanding the

stages can help you to realise that they are a normal reaction to unusual circumstances, and may assist you in adjusting to your new environment. It is also helpful to keep in mind that your own sense of cultural identity is often not evident until you encounter another culture.

When you first arrive, everything is new, interesting, and exciting. You are filled with expectations of what your year here will be like, and it is fun to explore your new environment.

After some time you realise that adjusting to the new culture requires some effort. This work may be very stressful for you. Your expectations may not have been met and you may experience a strong reaction to being here. At this time you may feel increasingly homesick and miss your family, familiar foods, and familiar surroundings. This stage is characterised by students feeling isolated, bewildered, irritated, depressed, or uncomfortable.

Feelings of apprehension, loneliness, or a lack of confidence may grow. Your sense of identity may be challenged and differences in culture may be experienced as threatening. It is common for individuals to come to a point where they reject the host culture (in this instance Norwegian culture) and withdraw into themselves. This stage is characterised by the student making generalisations about Norwegian culture and feeling that his or her home culture is far superior. It is common to focus on the differences rather than to look for what is similar between the two cultures. To combat this, it can help you to actively seek out, or focus on, what aspects your home culture and the new host culture share.

As you acquire a better understanding of the host culture, you will begin to feel more comfortable in your environment. Things start to make more sense, your self-confidence grows and you feel more at home. The process of understanding this new culture is continuous as you discover varying nuances and internal variations during your time here.

Tips for coping with transition

  • Making friends with Norwegians will lead to a better understanding of Norwegian culture
  • Language is very much connected to culture. Making an effort to learn Norwegian will give you the opportunity to interact with native Norwegians. They will be very pleased that you are showing an interest in their culture through language!
  • Get involved in student activity groups, particularly those where Norwegian students also participate
  • Balance your academic and non-academic activities
  • Exercise and eat balanced meals…take vitamins!

Seek help if at any point you find adjusting here to be overwhelming, or that it begins to affect your work, sleep, or eating habits. The International Student Counsellor at the Student Counselling Centre have experience in assisting students through this transition.   

Loneliness

Everyone has a need for human contact, which is necessary for happiness, enjoyment and self-development. Most people also appreciate being alone. We need a good balance between contact with others and time alone. If your need for social contact is not met, loneliness can occur.

Vulnerable periods during your studies
Loneliness can occur during every phase of life, including while you are studying. Particularly vulnerable periods during one’s studies, when loneliness can occur more often, include:

At the start of your studies, when you may have moved to a new place and need to make new social contacts If you fall behind in your studies and are unable to keep up with your fellow students In the period when you are writing your thesis (or equivalent final paper) and often work alone If you lose a family member or girlfriend/boyfriend, or if your best friend travels to the other side of the globe for six months If you suffer from social anxiety and isolate yourself to avoid anxiety-provoking social contexts If you isolate yourself too much with your girlfriend/boyfriend

Typical self-reproach

There is often prestige associated with having many friends and being popular. Some feel unsuccessful if they feel they have not achieved this. Loneliness is often associated with guilt or feeling ashamed. It can become hard to talk to others, which reinforces the need to isolate yourself even more.

Your sense of loneliness continues and worsens. Prolonged loneliness can lead to low self-esteem, oppression and depression - and vice versa.

The Student Counselling Service’s provision
We offer help to sort out your thoughts and feelings. If your sense of loneliness is in the process of becoming so overwhelming that it is impacting on your studies, we can provide more frequent follow-ups. You will receive help to find out the background for your loneliness and to change the patterns that cause your sense of loneliness.

The conversations can be individual or in groups involving other students who are aware of the problem. Click here to make an appointment

Anxiety

At the Student Counselling Service, we meet students who are experiencing problems with anxiety. It’s important to know that anxiety is natural and normal and something everyone is familiar with. Anxiety is a condition that may be characterized by unrest, the feeling of being unwell, worrying and the fear of something indefinable.

Anxiety is a natural part of the human being’s survival mechanism. It’s necessary so we can adapt to the dangers and threats of life and death – by acting or fleeing. However, from time to time you may experience that anxiety becomes an obstacle to doing activities you want to participate in. You can experience dreading something a lot and even avoiding participating. If this is the case, it may be helpful to seek help to find ways to cope with your anxiety.

The physical aspects of anxiety
Anxiety expresses itself in your body in different ways. You may experience:

Breathlessness Palpitations Sweating Numbness in your hands Trembling in your body or voice Chest pains “Butterflies” in your stomach Dizziness Nausea / stomach ache 

Thoughts

Your thoughts may be characterized by unrest and confusion. This may include problems with concentration and memory, catastrophic thoughts and difficulties stopping the negative thoughts and uncomfortable feelings you experience.

Social anxiety
You may also have social anxiety disorder if you avoid social activities because you perceive them as a major challenge.

Performance anxiety
A performance means that you expose yourself to assessment and criticism. Fears are often linked to the notion that you may appear to be, for instance, dumb, inept or inferior or unable to live up to your own or other people’s expectations.

The fear of speaking in front of groups is another example of this, as is the fear of doing an assignment or failing an examination.

Examination anxiety
The word examination is enough for your pulse to rise. Can I pass the exam, or will I fail? Can I get a high enough grade to live up to my expectations? Do I know the syllabus well enough?

Read more about how you can tackle examination stress

Anxiety about the future
You are overwhelmed with anxiety about the future. This may include managing and completing your studies, meeting the requirements to get a job and other things you think you will be expected to succeed in. There may be a tendency for this type of anxiety to arise when you are about to complete one phase of your life and embark on another.

The Student Counselling Service’s provision
If your anxiety effects your studies and quality of life, we can offer you conversational therapy. We can help you evaluate the nature and severity of your anxiety and try to see if there is a connection between your anxiety and your life in general. If you can define the reasons, it may be easier to act in relation to this and, as such, you will feel that you can do something to gain more control over your anxiety.

We can also help you with methods to reduce anxiety and provide information about medical treatment options. Please contact us for an appointment.

Self-confidence

“I don’t really have any self-confidence.” Some students say this when they come to Student Counselling Service, and there may be many causes. On this page, you can read more about self-confidence and methods for improving this.

Current living conditions

The sense of feeling valuable in relation to other people and in relation to the higher education institution is not so easy to achieve in the present-day student life. Students may experience uncertainty and low self-esteem, while still living alone or independently, having friends and a girlfriend / boyfriend and being used to managing well.

Uncertainty arises in your current life where everything is no longer delivered, and you have started the life-long process of developing your own identity. You must interpret the signals from the surroundings, put together your identity and test out, change and reformulate it continuously.

Rootlessness and restlessness
While seeing your identity creates new opportunities for personal development, it also creates new opportunities for rootlessness and restlessness. Some suffer from thoughts and feelings that revolve about their own shortcomings, such as:

Can I manage my studies? Will I mange my future job? Will I ever complete my thesis (or final assignment)? Will I be able to establish a good relationship?

Self-confidence is related to upbringing
Good experiences and positive feedback from parents, peers and school provides an important foundation for developing secure self-esteem and good self-confidence.

From time to time you may still experience inferiority and insecurity but will generally soon recover the inner confirmation that you are ok. However, if you have not received sufficient confirmation of your value, it takes less before you become very insecure and experience negative events that confirmation that you are not worth anything.

This can lead to a negative “self-confidence circle”, and to you subconsciously seeking out events and people that confirm your negative self-image.

From top of the class to one among many
At the Student Counselling Service, we meet many students who suffer a blow when they go suddenly from being the top of the class to one among many on a higher education.

A conversation can be a step on the path to breaking the vicious self-confidence circle”. It often comes as a great relief to discover that the others are also experiencing insecurity, and that you are not alone with the problem.

Via conversations, individually or in groups, the Student Counselling Service can help you to become more aware of the reasons for your lack of self-confidence and help you to break the negative “self-confidence circle” so you are better equipped to concentrate on your studies and use your skills. Get in touch with us to make an appointment.

Stress

Many students suffer from stress for shorter or longer periods during their studies. The factors that stress us vary greatly from person to person, as does how much it takes before we react with stress. Stress is not a disease. It’s a reaction to the imbalance between the outer and inner demands on the one hand, and the opportunities and resources on the other hand. Read our good advice to help you to avoid stress.

How does stress arise?
Stress-inducing factors are the external pressure such as:

  • Changes
  • Uncertainty
  • Responsibility
  • Many tasks
  • Disease
  • Perfectionism
  • Setting high performance requirements for yourself

What are the symptoms of stress?
Symptoms you should keep an eye on include:

  • Sleep problems
  • Avoiding contact with friends and family
  • Feeling sad and not being pleased to have free time
  • Concentration problems
  • You worry, are restless and have inner turmoil and/or unexplained anxiety
  • You are physically tense, e.g. you get tension-type headaches

How do I avoid/reduce/stop stress?
There is no miracle cure to avoid stress, but many small concrete steps can make a big difference.

Try to:

  • Get a complete overview of the next day or week and be realistic about what you can achieve
  • Practice saying no and learning to shrug your shoulders
  • Structure your everyday life
  • Avoid catastrophic thoughts: Try to follow them all the way – they will prove to be unrealistic
  • Ensure you eat and sleep well and get enough exercise
  • Notice what charges your batteries. Is it dancing, running or listening to music? Get more of it
  • Talk out loud about how you are feeling
  • Ask the surroundings for help
  • Do one thing at a time
  • Think in a nuanced or balanced way, not “this or that” and “black or white”
  • Do exercises to relax and relieve your tension

How can the Student Counselling Service help?
If you experience stress over a longer period, perhaps a conversation with the Student Counselling Service can help you to be wiser about the problem and help you to reduce or avoid the stress.

We generally offer individual conversations, and you will benefit from learning some relaxation techniques. Contact the Student Counselling Service to hear how you can receive help.

Depression

Depression come in many different shapes and forms, with different causes and degrees. It is quite normal to be sad every so often and it usually has nothing to do with depression.

If you are depressed, you will have some certain – a depressive pattern – that persists over time. You will be characterized by negative thoughts and the feeling of meaninglessness, which you can be overwhelmed with indecision. A depression generally affects someone physically, emotionally and intellectually.

Recognise the symptoms

  • If you are suffering from depression, you may:
  • Isolate yourself
  • Experience reduced confidence and increased irritability
  • Feel physically weakened and tired
  • Have trouble getting started in the morning

Other symptoms include:

  • Concentration problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Physical pain
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of appetite
  • Suicidal thoughts

Talk with someone
If your condition lasts for a longer period, it’s a good idea to discuss it with someone – friends, family or perhaps a professional. Depression is often easier to cope with when you know some of the reasons because this gives you an idea of what you can do to help.

Seek help

Sometimes depression requires professional help. If you have tried unsuccessfully to get over your depression, contact your GP or the Student Counselling Service.

Seek help at an early stage, so you can get help to find out whether what you are struggling with is a natural part of your development or the start of depression. If it turns out to be depression, it’s important to act early. The Student Counselling Service’s provision is individual conversational therapy or a course in coping with depression. Alternatively, we also offer advice about other places to get help.

Loss and grief

The loss of a person who means a lot to you is an emotionally draining experience. Serious illness and divorce or separation (involving yourself or your parents) may also contain elements of loss and grief. At the Student Counselling Service, we meet young people who have suffered serious losses, which impacts on their studies.

Your secure foundation disappears
If your firm and secure foundation, which previously seemed secure in this world, is suddenly shaken, you may feel vulnerable in many areas of your life. Consequently, you may be overwhelmed by different and often conflicting emotions, such as:

  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Loss
  • Longing
  • Pain
  • Guilt
  • Relief
  • Apprehension
  • Despair
  • Emptiness
  • Anxiety
  • Meaninglessness

This may impact on your studies, in the form of reduced concentration, worse memory or that you lose track.

Allow time and space for your feelings
If you are affected by grief, it’s important to allow space for your feelings and share them with others. This involves you recognizing:

  • What has happened
  • What you have lost
  • How painful it is

It’s important to talk with your nearest and dearest about your grief

The grief is a healing force that will in time make the loss easier to bear. If you try to avoid grief and focusing on how you are feeling, you run the risk of your heavy emotions growing.

Recognize your feelings and express them in one way or another, such as talking, crying and rage, painting, writing poetry, playing music or something else. These heavy emotions will pass with time and you will gradually regain your confidence and joy of life.

Help and support are important
Share your grief with your family and/or your girlfriend/boyfriend or close friends. If that is not enough, or if you don’t feel you have anyone you can open up to, it may be necessary to seek professional help.

At the Student Counselling Service, we offer conversations about what has happened, the crisis and all the thoughts your loss triggers. We allow time and space to react to feelings. In collaboration with the Student Chaplain, we offer the opportunity to participate in grief groups.

Problems related to eating, exercise and body perception

There are many different types of problematic relationships with eating, exercise and perceptions of one’s own body. It’s common to talk about three categories: anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating. Others will fall into the category of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, orthorexia or megarexia. Eating patterns can often change throughout life. Consequently, some people may have been through several of these categories, while others may have characteristics from several.

Anorexia
Anorexia is characterised by reduced food intake often combined with an extremely high level of activity and great fear of gaining weight. This can result in serious weight loss.

Bulimia
Bulimia is characterised by excessive overeating followed by vomiting or long training sessions. Many have normal weight.

Binge eating disorder
Regular or periodically uncontrolled overeating without compensating for this afterwards. Some diet periodically and their weight fluctuates, while others are overweight.

Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
A fourth eating disorder, many who don’t meet the specific criteria of the three above-mentioned eating disorders fall into this category.

Orthorexia
Orthorexia is an eating disorder characterised by excessive preoccupation with eating healthy food. However, this can result in malnutrition due to so much “healthy” food.

Megarexia
Magerexia (also called muscle dysmorphia) is a body image disorder which involves an excessive focus on gaining high muscle mass and becoming stronger. One considers their body too small or too skinny, even though they are already large and muscular.

A problematic relationship with eating, exercise and perception of your body often demands professional help. You can contact the Student Counselling Service for a conversation about these topics. We can also advise you about other places to get help. Contact us to make an appointment.

Self-harm

Self-harm is a way of coping with and surviving pain. It comes in many different forms and there are many different reasons why this occurs. The reason people do this is usually because they are struggling with feelings that are too heavy to live with, and they are unable to articulate or express this in other ways.

It’s important to try to put what one is battling with into words. Talking to someone can help. If you need someone to talk to and have confidence about this topic, contact the Student Counselling Service for a conversation.

Difficulties with your parents

The Student Counselling Service has many years’ experience helping students who have difficulties with their parents. On this page, you can read about typical issues related to parents and learn how we can help you.

A natural detachment process
Your level of dependency decreases gradually when you move away from home and start studying. Your parents will have a different significance in your life as you become more independent and they gradually let go.

For most people, the detachment process occurs without any serious problems, even though at times it is emotionally demanding for both parties.

A problematic detachment process
Occasionally problems may arise in the above-mentioned detachment process, e.g. you may find it hard to free yourself from your parents or they may have trouble letting go.

You may experience that you are too dependent on your parents and that this impacts on your relationship with them, your friends and your boyfriend/girlfriend. You may experience fear or anxiety when you try to do something independently and make your own decisions.

Conflicting emotions
Perhaps you want to free yourself from the influence of your parents, but at the same time you are afraid of what will happen if you “grow up” and have the duties and responsibilities this entails.

Perhaps you are fluctuating between a desire to experiment and discover who you are and the need to maintain the old, familiar pattern. Consequently, this creates discord between playing it safe and trying something new. This may result in uncertainty, anxiety and fear.

Responsible children for dependent parents
The cause of problems in this process may also occur if one or both parents have been dependent on care or help from their children, e.g. due to mental illness issues or substance abuse.

You have had a role in your family where you feel responsible for the welfare of your parents, and possibly also any younger sibling, and you worry about how they will cope if you are determined to live your own life. Perhaps you have inherited responsibilities that are disproportionate for your age.

If you try to live your own life, you can perceive your parents as punitive and dismissive, which often ends up leaving you with a feeling of guilt.

Parents with high ambitions for their children
Parents may have unfulfilled ambitions which they transfer to their children. Your parents are too involved in your career and in your life and place expectations and pressure on you.

This makes it difficult for you to find out what you want to do in life and how you wish to live.

The Student Counselling Service’s provision
We offer individual conversations when the problems become so comprehensive that they have a negative effect on your quality of life or studies. It may also be appropriate to invite family members to participate in the conversation if you feel the need for this.

These conversations can help you to clearly define your problems and clarify the reasons for these and thus provide support for dealing with them differently and appropriately. Contact us to make an appointment.

Being a student and a parent

Some experience life as a student as a challenging phase in their life, due to periodically higher workloads before examinations and strained finances. If you are responsible for children in addition, it can be especially challenging to find a good study form and rhythm in your everyday life.

Combining children and studies
Most student parents have a hectic life but mange extremely well. You must be more structured in your everyday life than students who only have themselves to consider. Perhaps you participate less than other students in social events and thus don’t get to know your fellow students as well. You may also feel pressure when your study group is meeting in the evening and you can’t make it. Your fellow students of the same age have different circumstances of life.

Being a solo parent and a student
Combining study and children may be especially challenging if the student is a solo parent. It’s important to focus on your network and have people who can babysit or help you when you are studying for an examination. If you have moved here and don’t have any family here to support you, you may wish to exchange services with other parents or friends. The Student Welfare Organisation’s kindergartens can also look after sick children during the examination period.

When you are alone, you can become isolated and spend a lot of time alone with your children in the afternoon and evening. Particularly the weekends may seem very long. Perhaps you don’t have anyone to ask for advice, share with or discuss issues concerning your children (setting boundaries can be a challenge).

The Student Counselling Service offers conversations related to these challenges and has good advice about where to find extra help or good solutions in your everyday life. Click here to make an appointment.