Homesickness When Studying Abroad and 6 Ways to Deal with It
It’s natural to feel homesick when you start to live abroad no matter how excited you are. No matter where you come from, leaving your home country to study abroad is a big transition. For a lot of people, the university is their first time in their life that they live away from their families. It can be difficult to go through this feeling when you are expected to be having the best time of your life.
So when you are feeling homesick, just remember that you are not the only one and people around you probably feel the same way. It is a quite personal feeling so not many people are going to talk about it, but don’t worry we have some tips to help you get through it so you can concentrate on having an awesome experience during your year abroad.
What is homesickness?
Homesickness is a feeling of stress or anxiety caused by separation from your family & friends and places you know. Homesickness is quite often among people away from their familiar environment where they feel overwhelmed and melancholic.
The feeling often starts around the beginning of the new academic year and towards the Christmas holidays. Luckily it is a short-term issue and most symptoms fade after the first couple of weeks at university.
What causes homesickness?
One of the main causes to feel homesick is leaving home to go to university. Whether you’re miles away from your home or in your own country it can still affect you. It’s natural to feel sad by not being able to sleep in your own bed and eat home-cooked food surrounded by your family.
It’s inevitable that a sudden change in the environment you live in will cause homesickness feeling because naturally, your identity and sense of security are closely tied to family and home and homesickness come from missing that security.
Also, it is natural for each individual to experience homesickness on another level. People with a history of anxiety and shyness may be more prone to feeling homesickness along with people who have never been away from home. If you have trouble with making new friends you might be also more likely to develop homesickness.
How to deal with homesickness?
Homesickness is just a temporary feeling and it does not require treatment. There are some things you can do to get rid of this feeling and start feeling better.
- Have a routine
Having a routine can make you feel positive and motivated. Start with cleaning your room, working out or having a meal plan. These activities will make you feel more energised and will help reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed as you’ll start to realize you can get things managed.
- Make plans
It’s important to make plans for your family or friends to come visit you or for you to go and visit them. By doing this you’ll have something to look forward to and know that you’ll see them soon. While waiting for that trip to happen you can easily focus on your studies and getting things done.
- Bring home with you
Whatever your comfort things are that will cheer you up and make you feel connected to home bring them with you. These could be your favourite teddy bear, photos of your family or a blanket that brings back memories. Don’t worry about your flatmates finding them because probably they will have their hidden away somewhere!
- Decorate your room
Make your room feel like a home where you can feel comfortable and relax in. Decorate your room with things like cushions, plants or photos of happy memories so it will feel more personal.
- Leave your room often
While staying in your cozy room can be tempting it will start to make you feel much worse. Go out and start making new friends, get involved in university clubs, schedule some social activities, keep yourself busy with exploring your surroundings or planning short trips. If you start feeling bored you will think about home and that shouldn’t be how you want to feel in your year abroad.
- Keep in touch (but not too much!)
Keeping in touch with your home, family, and friends with a WhatsApp call, a message or a group chat will fill in the gap that you might be feeling. If you stop yourself contacting them altogether you will end up missing them even more. But being in contact with them too often will actually make the distance feel even worse. So start with contacting them every day and then slowly decrease as you start to feel more settled in.
Stages of Homesickness
Everyone will experience a different journey of feeling homesick, but it’s a temporary status and will often go through below phases:
- Honeymoon Phase – You feel excited by the new environment you’re in and start learning new things.
- Difficult/shock Phase – You will start feeling nervous and uncertain. You may experience some physical symptoms or feel lonely. In this phase, you will start missing your family and friends and might even want to go back.
- Recovery Phase – You will start to begin to feel like you can do this.
- Independence/Autonomy Phase – You will start feeling enthusiastic again and start making new friends and gaining new experiences as you start to feel more comfortable in your new environment.
Timings for these phases might change for everyone. In the end, don’t give yourself a hard time when you just start to live abroad and remember that feeling homesickness isn’t a weakness and it affects most students.
Make an effort to stay positive and enjoy your year abroad by starting to make new memories with your new friends. But if you’re still struggling don’t feel ashamed to ask for help from friends or professional organizations or universities’ counseling services.