Twelve people who helped cure my homesickness

It is usually around now, towards the end of term one, a month away from the holidays, and with the dark nights setting in earlier and earlier, that our scholars start to miss home and the comforts that that entailed.

The UK however, is vastly multicultural and this can make it a little easier for scholars who are missing home to find some of those comforts here to remind them that while they may not be home, home may be nearer than they thought.

Of course, it is often also the people who make a home, so we asked our scholars to share their stories of the people who have helped cure their homesickness in the UK.


Sarra Elwefati, Libya

‘My best friend, Salma, made me these “open when’s” and “365 notes” before I came to the UK. She invested her time to prepare all of these notes for me to open every single day during my stay here so that I would feel less alone and always remember she is with me while I am away.

She has written so many different things including inside jokes, motivational quotes, university advice, challenges to complete, and orders so I’m always up to something new every day.

They have become an essential part of my day and I always look forward to the next morning to open a new note and uncloak what it has to offer me; an inspiring quote perhaps, or a joke for some morning laughter.

Sometimes I get the advice I really need for a bad day, or even some motivation when I’m having dilemmas. In addition, she wrote notes with instructions to only be opened when I feel extremely happy, make my first friend in the UK, and when I miss my family amongst others.

These notes make me feel like she is with me which makes my life a lot easier, and has helped me with my homesickness more than anything else.’


Ngonga Cathy, Democratic Republic of the Congo

‘In my country we don’t celebrate Halloween and I was as excited as a 2 year old to experience it in the UK. So, I have decided to apply for the Chevening event in York even though I was not sure it would be very interesting for me.

But, I can honestly say that I felt like I was at home the moment I met my fellow Cheveners.

I had a lot of fun visiting Mother Shipton’s cave, learned a lot about York Minster, was frightened by local ghost stories, amazed by the architecture in York, and was very happy to visit the shop where Harry Potter bought his magic wand! In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I even stayed overnight along with other Cheveners in order to enjoy York a little bit more.

All in all, I spent 2 terrific days in York and have met fantastic people with whom we decided to keep in touch and meet again in Wales at the end of November for another Chevening event. I can’t wait to be there!’


 Nevena Manic, Serbia

‘My great-grandfather Ljuba crafted these beautiful stone rosettes, along with other ornaments that were transported from Bela Voda, Serbia all the way to Birmingham for the first purpose-built Serbian church in the UK. Half a century later, I am studying at the University of Birmingham just a few minutes away from the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Holy Prince Lazar. This unbelievable story of my great-grandfather’s legacy and the long-lasting ties between my family and the UK help me feel like I am truly at home.’


Judith Kibuye, Kenya

‘Before arriving in the UK, I was teetering between euphoria and anxiety. The application process, with hindsight, had brought me a much-needed level of thrill keeping my adrenalin at an all-time high as I aced every step. Once it was done and dusted, and I’d even conquered the “extra page” theories, I wasn’t sure how I would feel. Upon reaching the UK however, I witnessed a complete takeover, with the blissful side of the scale emptied. But, loving gestures saved me from homesickness.

I have thus far experienced two categories of people; those with the power of Chevening (Chevening’s networking power with the potential of delivering rapid results), and those with the spirit of Chevening (Chevener supporters, perhaps because they appreciate the journey as much as I). So, I toast to Julius (Chevening, class of 2018) who just by my saying I am a Chevener, helped me hugely; to Mr. Immigration Officer at Bristol Airport for the hospitable smile and the reminder about my responsibility as a Chevening Scholar; Rhoda, for the heartwarming call and open invitation to visit her with a rejoinder that I should reach out even though she didn’t know me; finally,  the stranger who hugged me in Bristol – that hug was not only therapeutic but a confirmation that the best things in life are given freely.

Because of them, I moved from anxiety to being courageous… fearfully courageous. This is the power, the spirit, and the cure I needed. The power that made me feel like I was wielding some magic wand – the power resting on a name that is Chevening! And so, to Chevening – this is to your power! The power that liberates and stimulates. The power that cures even homesickness!’


Iulia Serbinovici, Moldova

‘In the city of Swansea, the universe has decided to unite under one roof three different ladies who create magic together.

Olesya and Emily are my roommates, who have become my family for this big year of changes and discoveries. We adore cooking homemade food, and during our suppers, we like sharing stories about our countries, lifestyles, and challenges.

Thanks to Olesya, every Sunday we have magical breakfast pancake parties which give us vital energy for the coming week. Emily wants our bodies to stay healthy so she prepares delicious vegetables in the oven and knows the secret of the curry roasted cauliflower. I cook homemade chicken soups with noodles or with champignons to warm girls after they return from studies during rainy days.

Another magical activity which we like to do together is singing karaoke and dancing in the kitchen after our meals – our kitchen is the genuine heart of our house.

All of our new friends, who have so far visited us want to return because our house is full of appetizing smells and has a homey atmosphere. We celebrate all our small and big victories together, and support each other when we feel concerned about anything. These wonderful ladies cure my homesickness and I am very happy that they are part of my life!’


Daniel Duplex Nde Tawembe, Cameroon

‘Arriving in the UK after the induction week and jumping straight into classes with research and assignments to submit, and deadlines to respect, the first month of my Chevening experience was quite challenging.

Sooner than expected, I started feeling a little homesick, as I was spending time mostly between the campus and my accommodation. Then I heard about HOSTUK and applied to be hosted for a weekend by a family who would offer me real British experiences.

A few days later, I received an e-mail from the organisation’s regional manager telling me Helena and David wanted to host me for the weekend of 25-27 October. I immediately accepted and we were put in touch. Communication between us was very smooth and just a few hours later, I had booked my trip to Inverness where my host was to pick me. About a week later, I received another email from the regional manager telling me a fellow Chevener – also from the University of Aberdeen – would be coming with me.

Before the visit, I did not know Sirat from Afghanistan. We met at the bus station and travelled together to Inverness where David picked us up to go to their home at Abriachan near Loch Ness. The weekend we spent there was a real discovery of Scottish life, a deep immersion into the Loch Ness and Nessie monster story. We shared our hosts’ passion for nature conservation and protection, and visited their garden where they grow the food that they eat. We also had a tour of the Glen Ord distillery and witnessed the whisky production process. It was definitely a great experience.’


Wael Abed, Iraq

‘This photo was taken with a group of my friends and classmates to celebrate Philip’s birthday recently. They have helped me feel welcome.’


Irvin Romero, El Salvador

‘The most important people in the process to cure my homesickness have been my flat mates, with whom I have built an amazing friendship. The first thing they always ask me when I come back to the flat after university is, “How was your day?” and that’s when the conversation starts and it usually ends up in lots of laughter.

We share moments together and learn from one another. For example, since one of my flatmates is Indian, we celebrated Diwali, a Hindu festival which I had never heard about before. Many of his other friends came over too. I tried Indian food and danced to traditional Indian songs in addition to making many new friends!

Besides my flatmates, my classmates have also helped me to feel like I am home. Not only do we study together but we also spend time outside university doing fun things. Whether we go for some coffee or to a pub, we talk about a lot more than just studies and homework, we share our cultures and traditions. One day, some of my Chinese classmates prepared a lot of traditional food and invited us over to eat with them and play games together.

While El Salvador is my home-country, thanks to the people I have come across so far during my Chevening journey, the UK is now becoming my second home.’


Ragene Andrea Palma, Philippines

‘Surprisingly, I haven’t really experienced bad homesickness since I got to the UK, which is unique for Southeast Asians, because we have very familial cultures.

But I miss a few things here and there such as speaking Filipino and hanging out with my friends from home. I’m glad however at how my course, International Planning and Sustainable Development, addressed that. It brought together people of such diverse backgrounds; so my new friends and I share the experience of finding a home away from home in each other. We study development and planning in the classroom, and talk about real issues at the lunch table, from colonisation to birth control, from religion to education, and more.

But it’s not all serious talk – we also share a thing or two about The Big Bang Theory or Friends, and have a good time over wine and canapes.

Here are two photos that keep me smiling: the first is us having lunch together at the University of Westminster, and the second, Chevening and Commonwealth scholars (all in the same class!) attending a reception night at the International Student House.’


Mushoka Muyatwa, Zambia

‘Sarah and I are scholars from different countries but we have a lot in common. Firstly, we both study at the University of Bristol, secondly, we are taking the same MSc course in Gender and International Relations and thirdly, we are housemates too!

Curing homesickness has been very easy as we normally take walks together and explore our city of Bristol. In the pictures above, we went to the Clifton Suspension bridge during one lucky sunny afternoon.

When the sun comes out, we soak it in and sightsee!’


Lanvell Blake, Jamaica

‘Approximately 4,539 miles from home, little to no sun, and the sound of rain putting you to bed and waking you up – sounds like the perfect recipe for homesickness, right? Especially if you are from a tropical island.

Being one of two Jamaican Chevening Scholars, from the biggest little dot in the world, Jamaica, studying at Swansea University, Wales makes the experience here a little more adventurous. Abrahim, my Jamaican parri (a slang expression for addressing a close friend) has been just that since moving here.

Funnily enough, our first week on campus, we thought we were the only ones from the Caribbean studying at Swansea. We Caribbean people love exploring however, and quickly found out there were two other Jamaicans, two Bajans, a Belizean, and a Bahamian. To celebrate this discovery, we shared drinks at Pub on the Pond and now maintain a WhatsApp group called #YaadieLinkStrong (our home link is strong).

My stay here is enriched daily due to the “melting pot of cultures” we have with this year’s group of Chevening Scholars at Swansea University. Priscilla from Ghana taught us some basic greetings from Twi, the principal native language of the country.

“Eti sen?” which means, “how are you?” is a common greeting in Ghana, and Priscilla has taught us that greetings are very important in Ghana. If you don’t want to be seen as impolite, then be sure to learn this phrase and use it as much as possible!

“Eh ya” means, “I’m fine”, and when someone asks you how you’re doing, this should always be your answer.’


Rocio Clemente Tito, Bolivia

‘It is hard to be far from home, but at the same time I know I am not the only one in the flat where I live, who feels like that.

That is why I decided to cook for my flatmates a delicious Sajta de pollo, a very famous dish from my country.

In the picture are my flatmates, who are from different countries; India, China, Japan, Germany, and me from Bolivia. They also helped me with the cooking in the kitchen that we share.

I took the picture because experiences like this one, will remain forever inside every one of us, as an example of the moment that we supported each other to avoid homesickness.’

Thank you to all of our scholars who submitted pictures and stories to this theme.

To submit your own pictures and stories to the latest themes, please check your most recent Scholargram for submission details.

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