There are quite a lot of people who experience homesickness, but just because you may not think you are, remember that it can come in many forms. I personally experience little to no traditional homesickness. Summers spent across the country at camp for months at a time cured me from this normal feeling. When I moved across the country to go to college I never had the achy sadness of missing the past, and it is not to say from time to time I didn’t think about friends and family or even my puppy! However, I never went through traditional homesickness. Going abroad has not been very different. Of course I was nervous and anxious about quite a lot of new things, but I have been easily caught up in the excitement of the new environment and different experiences. Homesickness is, by no means, a bad thing! It is natural! But like most things, it is about moderation, putting your privilege in check, and being in a mindset of taking advantage of the new experiences in front of you. Remember that you can simply survive abroad, or you can LIVE while you’re abroad, and that is much more fun!
Missing people or things from home is natural. In the inconsistency that is the Abroad Experience, it is normal to miss some of the things that are staples in home life. The problem with giving in to homesickness is letting it consume you. If missing home becomes the main focus of your trip, this could become detrimental to the experience as well as harmful to your wellbeing. To keep yourself in moderation, I recommend:
- Talking to family and friends once or twice a week. Don’t spend your entire trip on Skype!
- Try joining the gym. If it is something you consistently do at home, it might help you feel more stability. (This has been a great decision for me! I love being able to work out to handle stress).
- Make your favorite meal! Share it with the people you’ve met as a way to positively talk about and share memories of home. You could also watch a tv show or movie with people. For Halloween I organized a movie night in my house to watch Hocus Pocus, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride, which helped me feel better about not being home.
-Check your Privilege-
This “p” word tends to turn people off, but I think abroad is a time to reflect on where you come from. This reflection can bring up bouts of homesickness, but it is important to map your growth. Think about what things you are missing and consider if they are really necessities worth whining over. Also, recognize that people you meet are going to have distinctive experiences, come from diverse places, and potentially have very different outlooks than you. If you feel out of place because of this, don’t worry! This is also ordinary. Here are a few ways to handle this:
- Take a moment to recognize that it is OKAY for people to be different than you, it makes the world more interesting. Living with 15 people from all over the world in my house, view points can be very different! But take advantage of this. I have learned so much about the politics of the EU, European immigration, and even capitalist theory, topics I would probably never read about or take courses on, but have now explored in a bit of depth.
- Don’t make other people feel stupid for not having the same experiences as you. If there is something you think most people know, even silly things like chocolate chip cookies or Dr. Seuss, don’t belittle someone for not having knowledge about them. (I have seen Americans do this and it just makes you look more foolish)
- Keep a journal. Even something basic, where every day you write down one thing that you learned to think about differently or something someone said that challenged a belief. I have personally started this, and it is a great way to remain open to new ideas, as you can search for things to write in your journal!
*Also remember that many people who would like to go abroad don’t have that opportunity, so you are privileged in going and should not take that for granted* 🙂
-Take Advantage of the New-
Abroad is not about doing things the way you have always done them. This is the most important thing to remember when mentally preparing for your trip. Things are going to be different! Sights, sounds, foods, people, will all present chances to get out of your comfort zone. But don’t mope about what your new local doesn’t have, instead delight in the new!
- Try cooking new meals, buying different things from the grocery store or market, or just eating different food in general. It is not the time to be picky! Food is a bonding time for many cultures and it can offer you insight into greater pieces of the new world you’re in if you eat the food.
- Words, words, words. I am in a country which speaks English, but the accent can sometimes be a challenge. Try to be comfortable with the new language or accent around you! When you get back to the states it will sound so plain, this is the time to love the different sounds.
- Moping or complaining about the differences gets you nowhere. Try to have a mindset that allows you to enjoy the differences, rather than constantly contrasting them.
- Get involved! Attend campus events you may not go to at DU or join a new club. Belfast is filled with active school groups and they offer open activities to the whole campus!
– Jessie GG, DUSA Blogger