How to Handle Homesickness When Studying Abroad
Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity to learn about other cultures and expand your educational horizons. No matter how excited you may be to go overseas, there will come a time when you miss being home. The smell of your neighborhood, the taste of your mom’s cooking, the feeling of hugging your best friend – those are the little things you start to want most of all.
Should the potential of homesickness stop you from learning abroad? Absolutely not. You just need to learn how to manage the feelings to come. Here are some tips to help you handle homesickness studying abroad.
Take an Element from Home with You
It helps to have a reminder of home with you when you’re in an unfamiliar place. This could be anything from a picture of a family vacation to a special trinket you’ve always had. The keepsake should be small enough to fit in a suitcase pocket, and of course, it should meet all flight regulations. If you find yourself missing home, you can hold on to this element and get a temporary “fix” from it. This will not be a substitute for seeing your family in person, but it will help you feel closer to them in times of need.
Establish a Daily Routine
You will feel more at home in your new environment if you establish a daily routine. You don’t have to do the same exact things every day, but you should have a general time to eat, sleep, shower, and the like. Make time to explore the country you’re in, even if you cannot do so once a day. Example: every weekend, plan to travel to a neighboring city or country and spend a full day there. If you’re in school during the week, you can still enjoy the culture around you during your off time.
Having a sleep routine is particularly important because that gives you energy for the next day. Your brain processes thoughts, feelings and emotions while you sleep. If you do not get enough sleep regularly, your feelings of homesickness will be heightened by sleep deprivation. Create a rhythm that works for your life, and your mind will take care of the rest.
Skype with Your Family and Friends
Talking on the phone may not feel like enough sometimes, and it costs a fortune when you are in another country. With Skype, you can see your friends and family members so it feels more like they are there with you. This also gives you a chance to show them where you are living, what you’ve been doing, the friends you’ve made, and more. Best of all, it is free to use, so you don’t have to pay for an expensive calling card.
Know When to Stay Away from Social Media
Social media is great for keeping in touch with people, but it may make your homesickness worse. If you get sad every time you log on because of all the things you’re “missing out on,” it’s time to take a break. You can catch up on all of those memories when you get back home. For now, just focus on the memories you are actively making.
Make the Most of Your Time in Another Country
The best way to prevent homesickness studying abroad is to immerse yourself in another country. Make every effort possible to learn about your temporary home – its people, its entertainment, its everyday ebb and flow. If you don’t know the language, take classes while you are over there. Commit to being more than just a tourist. When you look back on your studies abroad, you want the memories to have true value.
Send Gifts and Postcards
While you’re studying abroad, send postcards and gifts to your loved ones. This gives them a new perspective on your adventures, and it creates less clutter in your suitcase for your return trip. If you have a temporary address while you are over there (you’re staying in the same place for the entire time), you can give that address to your loved ones so they can send you letters in return. This is much more personal than an email, and it will make you feel closer to the sender. As an added bonus, ask your friends and family to send you physical photos with their letters so you can see what they’re up to…without going on social media.
Find New Friends with Similar Interests
You won’t feel as homesick when you have new friends to spend time with. You may even be fortunate enough to live with another family while studying abroad. If you are going overseas with a group of other students, try to make at least one friend in the group. That gives you an established support system during your travels. If you are going on your own, try to meet new people at your university or at places you like to visit. These can become lifelong companions that will reserve memories of your time abroad.
Remember: It’s OK to Cry
There may be times when the homesickness feels so overwhelming that you break down into tears. That’s OK. Give yourself a moment to let out your emotions and bring closure to them. When you feel ready, clean yourself up and continue about your day.
Find your own unique way of handling homesickness studying abroad so you can make full use of this once in a lifetime experience.