Being an exchange student and studying abroad is an exciting and once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, no matter how exciting it is, it is easy to fall into feeling homesick. Transitioning to a country thousand miles away from home and alone is never an easy thing to do. Especially if it’s your first time being away from your family, it can be not easy in the beginning.
How can you deal with being homesick and make the most out of your experience abroad?
What Is Homesickness?
Homesickness is the feeling of anxiety when you’re distant from familiar people and places. It is an overwhelming and nostalgic feeling that usually happens when you’re away for a time from a familiar environment.
It usually manifests in difficulty in falling asleep in your bed at night or a sudden melancholy burst. It doesn’t only happen when you’re in another country; it can also manifest even if you’re only a few miles away from home. This usually happens because you’re facing a change in your sense of identity and belongingness.
Stages Of Homesickness
Although everyone has a different experience of homesickness, it usually happens in these phases:
1. Honeymoon Phase
This is the time when you feel the most enthusiastic being in a new environment. You start exploring and learning new things.
2. Shock Phase
This period is when you start feeling anxious and uncertain about being away from home. The physical and emotional symptoms of missing home may result in wanting to go back.
3. Recovery Phase
This is the time when you begin to feel comfortable and settled.
4. Independence Phase
Here, your excitement comes back as you gain new experiences and feel more familiar with your environment.
These phases may not happen in order or might change depending on your situation. It’s normal to undergo these phases as you transition to living abroad.
Ways Of Dealing With Homesickness
Homesickness usually does not require treatment as you can get through it as time passes. Here are some things that you can do to ease the feeling of loneliness:
Plan A Routine
Planning a feasible routine that you can follow every day is an excellent start in distracting your mind. Having a clear goal to wake up to every morning can give you the energy to get through the day. It also eases the feeling of overwhelmedness and melancholy as you focus your mind on it.
You can start by setting a personal or academic goal that can give meaning to your everyday life. Schedule a day for decorating your room, going out, or even establishing a meal plan. These are realistic and achievable goals that you can accomplish.
Participate In School Events
Once you start going to your new school or university, you’ll find many campus activities that you can join. These events allow you to meet new people and learn about the culture of the community. You can start by joining clubs to meet like-minded individuals you can hang out and be friends with.
Also, most schools offering exchange student programs have an international student society. You can share your experiences and create a reliable support system that can help you with your transition.
Bring A Piece Of Home With You
It is also essential to bring a piece of home with you when you move into your place. These things will make you feel that you feel still connected to your family and home. It could be anything—your family picture, your blanket, favorite pillow, your teddy bear, etc.
Moreover, try to make your room and your space as comfortable as possible. Make it feel like your home. You can try decorating it with things that will bring positive energy, such as putting plants and a wall of photos.
Go Out Often
Of course, you shouldn’t forget to explore your new environment. Go out and plan short trips and social activities. While doing your groceries, try to make some stops for other places around the town as well. Doing so will keep you occupied for some time, plus you can also meet new people while you’re going around the place.
Keep In Touch Back Home
Keep in touch regularly with your family members and friends through chatting, texting, calling, and video calling applications. While you’re trying hard to transition, it’s not good to cut off your contact with them. More often than not, it will cause you to end up missing them more. However, too much of this can make you feel the distance and longingness even more.
As you begin to settle in, try to schedule a time when you will contact them. Try to keep your family updated as much as possible. As much as you’re missing them, they are also worried that you’re alone.
Ask For Help
“Homesickness is part of a process, and there are things we can do to move through that adjustment curve and feel more in control. If we keep doing things to explore that transition, we find our roots anew and get connected and committed to those things and feel at home,” author and psychologist Tamar Chansky, Ph.D. says.
If the overwhelming feeling is not getting better as time goes by, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are guidance staff and counseling services for every school and university that can help you get through it. Rest assured that they can help you in dealing with your situation.
Studying abroad is an exciting and meaningful experience. Your time abroad is a time where you can truly find yourself and the things you enjoy, and you’re good at it. However, if you’re struggling, don’t think of it as the end of it all. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for support and help as you make your transition. By doing so, you’re one step closer to making the most out of your life abroad.