Guest blog by Student Furniture: How thoughtful design can prevent international students suffering from homesickness

In the UK alone the number of international students enrolled in universities rises at an average annual rate of 6.4%. These students bring in millions of pounds to the economy, but whilst this provides financial benefit to university institutions, it poses certain challenges for accommodation providers and interior designers.

Challenges that Student Furniture has long considered.

So, can design prevent international students getting homesick? Let’s see.

Firstly, to cater for these students arriving in a new and alien culture, the industry must place itself in the shoes of its customers – the world’s brightest and best students – to understand how their own decisions will affect residents once they settle into their new surroundings.

Think about it. Moving to a new town or city is one thing, but packing your bags, upping sticks and heading to the other side of the world is a gargantuan move – accommodation designers, therefore, have a duty to ensure that they design accommodation with the needs and wellbeing of these students in mind.

Here’s what they need to do.

They should make shared space a priority

It’s not just homesickness that well-designed common rooms can help alleviate. Shared spaces are usually the focal point of all modern student residences, and in most cases are the first areas students assess when looking for a residence to stay in.

 If you do make common rooms a prime concern, you will attract the best students quicker than other residences, and satisfaction levels will be better once they arrive.

In comparison, most bedrooms are similar, identical in fact, give or take differences depending on student preference. But communal spaces, where students mingle and socialise, can make or break whether they feel at home there.

They must design the entire experience

In 2016 student accommodation is about more than just a bedroom and en-suite. It’s not the 1990s anymore! Designers must think about residents’ quality of life and create a warm and welcoming, comfortable experience that feels like home, rather than just a box room with a bed in it.

To give further thought to student’s well being, think about the various situations students will find themselves in, such as personal time or hours they spend learning. Develop with the following in mind. 

  • Group interaction
  • Solo study
  • Group study
  • Relaxation

Think too, about the seasons and how much natural light will flood into each room – homesickness is proven to be less of a problem in light airy rooms that encourage rest and recuperation.

They should always create environments that encourage learning

Following on from the last point: study space is just as vital as relaxation space. That means, as well as providing communal areas for watching TV and socialising, shared spaces must be designed to encourage working – whether that’s solo, group work or on-line collaboration.

Providing space for residents to work collaboratively helps reduce the chance of loneliness and in turn, prevents the onset of homesickness – especially in students from further afield.

They need to embrace digital technology

Most international students are very far away from home, and as such will rely on technology to keep in contact with friends and loved ones. In light of that, provide the fastest broadband you can find or afford, and use the communal areas to create workstations with enough plug sockets for a number of students to work simultaneously without feeling too cramped.

They need to understand who their tenants are

It’s not always feasible, but by learning about tenants before they move in it’s possible to make adjustments to rooms and help residents avoid severe culture shock. This might include sourcing items that remind them of home – items such as cushions or artwork might be enough to provide comfort and make for happy residents.

Afterall, happy tenants is what you’re looking for.

Student Furniture is a UK-based student furniture provider with an emphasis on living spaces that promote living and learning – representatives from the company will be at Class of 2020 in Vienna – keep an eye on our Twitter(@StudentFurn)  for exhibition updates during the show.

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