Dealing with Homesickness
Episode #9 of the course How to prepare to study abroad by Susanna M. Olson
Homesickness: It hits unexpectedly and can linger far too long. At its best, it reminds you of previously unappreciated blessings. At its worst, it can make you feel so hollow that you want to curl up in bed and forget about enjoying all the glorious experiences of living abroad.
Homesickness is marked by feelings of loneliness, confusion, and overwhelmed lack of control. In some ways, while those are all uncomfortable feelings, they are also positive signs that your are:
• pushing yourself
• living outside your comfort zone
• growing as a person
• doing something big
Fear of missing out, commonly known as FOMO, is the worry that you are missing out on important experiences at home. For example, your nephew is only going to be one-and-a-half one time. Maybe you worry that you will regret having missed his first words.
The most important thing to recognize in dealing with both of these very real and very common challenges is this: You cannot be two places at once. You can’t have it all.
When you make the choice to study abroad, you temporarily exchange one life for another. Your family and friends can accept that. You must be able to accept it too. By immersing yourself in new experiences and giving yourself fully to live a new life (temporarily!), you can avoid a lot of grief.
Here a few basic tips to help you pull through bouts of homesickness and FOMO:
Stay busy and get out. It may seem counterintuitive, but your room should not be your sanctuary. Find places outside your house where you can relax, like a favorite café or park. Make sure you are regularly taking part in the unique opportunities your new home affords. Try new foods, new customs, new words…soak it in.
Control your social media use. Make sure you control your time on social media. Don’t let keeping up with your home world jeopardize opportunities to make new friends and live a real life abroad. You didn’t cross an ocean or a continent to sit around behind a computer and check Facebook. You could do that anywhere.
Yes, make time to stay connected to your dearest loved ones back home—just don’t use social media to try and live vicariously in two places at once. Your six-month course may seem endless on particularly rainy afternoons, but the time will fly by.
Invest in relationships. Don’t be passive about connecting with new people. You don’t need a huge group of friends. Just make sure you invest in a few fulfilling friendships.
Stop comparing your new life to home. Don’t fall into the trap of “oh, this is so much easier at home” or “at home, this would NEVER happen.” Move abroad with the expectation that your life will be completely different and that you will embrace the changes as an opportunity to try something new. Don’t waste time comparing two disparate lives.
Take care of your health. Your mood is closely associated to your eating, sleeping, and exercise habits. Don’t let your health go when you move abroad. You don’t want to waste your time in a new country grumpy because you aren’t sleeping enough. Sleeping and exercise can help tremendously to balance your hormones and mood.
Reflect and give thanks. Through journaling, blogging, and emailing friends back at home, take time to reflect on your journey. You may want to consider keeping a gratitude journal. Making thankfulness a conscious part of your routine will help you keep things in perspective. You are experiencing something many people never get the chance to experience. Even when it gets hard, there will always be a lot to be thankful for.
In the last session, we will discuss the top tips for making sure you are fully taking advantage of your time abroad.
26 Ways to Reduce Homesickness While Abroad
A Student Guide to Study Abroad by Stacie Nevadomski Berdan, Allan E. Goodman
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