“Homesickness nearly stopped me from graduating”

Syrian student Zena Ali has graduated from the University of Dundee after overcoming an often overlooked and misunderstood illness.

The Human Clinical Embryology Masters student thought she might have to give up her ‘dream’ degree when she fell ill with homesickness. Feeling isolated and alone, the real dangers of the illness became apparent when she failed her first-year exams.

“I felt so lonely, low and depressed and I couldn’t concentrate,” said Zena. “I felt so embarrassed when I failed a module that it made me feel more isolated so my symptoms got worse.

“In the holidays I was lucky enough to have a break back home. That gave me strength and helped so much. I came back telling myself I could do it. I brought back some traditional coffee and spent a few nostalgic moments each day imagining I was drinking it with my family. I did the re-sit and passed.

“Now I know that if I had had the courage to share my feelings early on, and perhaps join a University society or volunteer group, I might have recovered sooner and not failed the first semester and needed to go home. We need to somehow fill the gap of separation from our families. Now I feel I can do anything!”

University Counsellor Caroline Adamson said, “Almost everyone will experience homesickness at some point in their life, regardless of their age.  Symptoms may range from a mild feeling of longing to acute anxiety resulting in serious clinical conditions.

“There is no shame in admitting homesickness. It is common during most transitions but the symptoms do need to be recognized and acted upon to avoid withdrawal of the self and isolation.”

Zena graduated on Friday 17 November at the Caird Hall. She was one of 900 other students graduating from the University this week.

She now intends to return to Syria to put her new skills to use.

For media enquiries contact:
Cara Longmuir
Media Relations Officer
University of Dundee
Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4HN
Tel: +44 (0)1382 385243
Email: c.z.longmuir@dundee.ac.uk