Homesickness is the feeling of longing because of being away from home for a considerably long period of time. A homesick person may feel lonely, heartsick, yearning, insecure, and wistful.
Homesickness can be broken down into two factors- separation and distress. It arises when a person is stressed, upset, or simply sad due to separation from family, home, culture, language, or food. The feeling of being disconnected from familiarity is what leads to homesickness. Culture shock and separation anxiety are the most common reasons for homesickness.
There are stages of homesickness abroad that you need to understand properly in order to start your recovery journey:
- Honeymoon Stage: This is the initial stage of overwhelm. When you’re excited to land in your dream college, ready to explore your new life and new opportunity. In this stage, a student is usually positive toward their new life and is naive towards the coming challenges.
- Frustration Stage: This is the stage when the initial excitement of new adventures wear off and the struggle of living in an entirely different environment starts to kick in. Setting a routine, missing the bus, doing household chores, not understanding the language, not getting desired food items, etc, makes the students frustrated and feel fatigued. This is the stage when the homesickness starts to develop strength and the symptoms start to show.
- Adjustment Stage: This is the stage where the students start trying to overcome it and seek measures to reduce their homesickness. The students start looking for ways to adjust to the new life. This stage can last for a longer time depending on the coping mechanism of the person.
- Acceptance Stage: This is the stage when the culture shock is subdued and the students come to the realization that they are not alone and they do not need to understand the culture, tradition, and language completely in order to live abroad. This is the stage when the students start their recovery journey and gather resources that will help them make their stay abroad comfortable and fun.
How to overcome homesickness abroad
Most students that leave for college to study abroad have experienced homesickness that lasts anywhere from 3 weeks to more than a year. Not just at the start of the year; a few students also experienced acute homesickness after returning to college from summer/winter breaks during their study program.
This proves that homesickness is entirely normal and can be overcome by adopting some tips and tricks. The following will tell you how to overcome homesickness abroad:
Communicate with family/friends regularly:
Make efforts to communicate with your people back home whether it is by call or video chat. Try to fix a proper schedule that works on both ends for this depending on the time zone. Ask them about their day and discuss yours to feel inclusive and familiar with each other’s life.
Reach out to others:
Never for a second believe that you’re alone in this. No matter how invading your negative thoughts are. Reach out to your classmates and try to make friends and build relationships with seniors, resident advisors, or counselors. Talking to them will surely make you realize that you’re not alone in this, and they’ll also suggest activities that might interest you.
Avoid social media FOMO:
Constantly trying to find what’s going on back home and keeping track of your friends’ activities on social media can worsen your situation giving you FOMO. So, avoid using social media too much or try social media detox at least in the initial days and make efforts to connect with new people and surroundings instead.
Make it “feel like home”:
Try to bring small things or products that you’re used to in your daily life back home or some decor pieces like candles, towels, and photos that remind you of your home. Making your new dorm or room look like your older one will surely help you overcome homesickness.
Continue your hobbies or seek a new one:
Continuing something that you’re good at will bring you a lot of joy and help you feel the familiarity of home. You can also look for various new activities that the colleges offer and make friends along the way. The colleges/universities organize different types of activities from sports clubs to art and science clubs to help students make good use of their free time.
Create a routine:
Creating a routine in your life will give you a sense of direction and discipline. It will help you organize your new life properly and make time for leisure activities, which will eventually make things go smoothly for you and provide some comfort from your homesickness.
Travel and explore:
One of the main reasons why most of us leave our homes to study abroad is to explore and travel to new places. Keep that in mind and make the most of the opportunity you’re presented with. Explore the city, and learn about the culture, tradition, and food. Learn a new language and apply for part-time jobs, meet the locals, and enhance your knowledge about the city you’re in.
Remind yourself “WHY”:
While you’re at it, always keep reminding yourself why you choose to move abroad to study in the first place. The reasons could be multiple but we are sure, it’s a good one. Write a journal, create a mood board, or whatever works for you. You know you’ve great potential and opportunities in front of you. Just don’t forget that.
Get professional help:
When nothing works for you, you can seek professional help. Sometimes all we need is a lending ear. You can talk to an expert and seek advice from them to tackle and overcome homesickness. You can opt for online/offline therapy whatever works for you and is within your budget. Sometimes students' health insurance also covers such treatment, you can look into that as well. Apart from that, if you have a friend or close one dealing with homesickness then helping them along can be beneficial to you too.
How to help someone with homesickness:
- Motivate them to stay positive.
- Take them out and explore.
- Be considerate and share your feelings with each other.
- Try to find their trigger points and how to manage them.
- Invite their friends/family to the campus and surprise them.
Acknowledging homesickness and understanding that it is a normal human emotion might be the hardest part of overcoming it. So, it is very important to seek familiarity and a sense of belongingness in the new environment for students and keep themselves clear about their initial intention of moving abroad. Apart from that, you can seek professional help if you feel directionless and lonely and if you need more information, please comment down below.