How to Deal With Homesickness When Studying Abroad

how to deal with homesickness

The Best Advice on How to Deal with Homesickness for International Students

There is lots of advice out there talking about how to deal with homesickness. However, it is often too complicated and is not specifically aimed at those studying abroad. Although homesickness is a fairly universal emotion, international students have a unique experience which means that slightly different things will work for them than for others.

Let us first start by defining what homesickness is. Homesickness is essentially a form of anxiety or simply emotional distress which manifests in the person afflicted feeling disconnected from the people, places, and routines that are familiar to them. In other words, it is when someone misses their home.

Of course, to be homesick one must by definition be away from home. This is the case with international students. Despite the fact that most of them choose to leave their home country, their initial time at their new location might be fraught with homesickness along with other hardships. This is often the case even if you choose your dream location. 

However, this is not a reason to give up on studying abroad. On the contrary, it is one of the many unique challenges that it presents. Those that learn how to deal with homesickness when studying abroad will also get taught some valuable life lessons that will make them stronger and more capable adults.

With that said, here are five pieces of advice on dealing with homesickness that might just save you if you are an international student missing home or if you are about to be one.

1. Connect With People

A big reason why you might be feeling homesick is that you are not feeling connected with anyone in your new location. By contrast, the bonds you have with everyone back home may seem so precious. You might feel like you simply need to see your friends and family. However, very often the case is that we simply have not made close enough connections with the people available to us at our new place.

By making new friends, you satisfy that human need for companionship that we all have. Maybe you meet some people that are even a better match for you than a lot of your friends back home! Often when people are feeling homesick, they look at where they came from through rose-tinted glasses and see it in a romanticized and idealized way. Therefore, one of the best tips for how to deal with homesickness is to make new friends and see how great new people in your life can be!

That said, meeting new people is not always easy, especially when you are in a new and unfamiliar place. Fortunately, student life offers many opportunities to meet others. For example, you can sign up for extracurricular activities or look for a part-time job. No matter which way you go about it, connecting with new people will go a long way towards healing your feeling of homesickness. Not only will you have new friends, but those friends can introduce you to their families and you can get some of that feeling you get when spending time with your own family back home (even though nothing can replace that, of course). Finally, just sharing your feelings with a trustworthy friend is also invaluable in going through any emotional turmoil.

2. Make Your New Place Feel Like Home

One of the most useful pieces of advice on how to deal with homesickness is to make your new place feel more like your home. Of course, nothing can replace your old room or the dining table during a family dinner. However, steps can be taken to make sure that your new space is one where you feel comfortable and “at home.”

Most international students will either be staying at a dorm or a temporary apartment. Both of these allow only limited customization, but it is definitely still possible to make the space your own. Think of dorm room walls plastered with posters of your favourite artists and movie stars. Small pieces of custom furniture can also be installed in apartments and their existing setups can be switched around to create something you feel more comfortable with.

Who knows? Maybe after decorating your dorm room or apartment enough, you might even feel more at home there than back where you originally came from. This is because you will be able to fully customize the space to your personal liking, while still negotiating with any potential roommates, of course.

3. Make Self-Care a Priority

We have already mentioned how, when we feel homesick, we not only miss the places and people we leave behind but also our old routines and habits. Fortunately, these things are the most portable out of the three.

Knowing how to deal with homesickness in this respect entails two things:

  1. Retaining as many of your old habits and routines that contributed to your happiness or well-being.
  2. Taking up new habits and routines that can make you feel even better in the long run.

These habits and routines can be general things such as exercise, journaling, or meditation. They can also be things highly specific to you such as knitting or collecting stamps (think of all the new fun ones you could obtain in a new country!). Whatever those might be for you, make sure you do not abandon them and, in that way, retain an important part of yourself that is consistent no matter where you go.

4. Explore and Fall in Love with the Country in Which You Are Currently

One of the best ways to get over a former lover is to find a new one. Likewise, really getting to know and love the place where you are right now can greatly diminish feelings of homesickness you might be feeling.

As we have already mentioned, when you are feeling homesick you might be missing the place you are originally from. It is more than just missing old locations, though. You have a longing for the customs, practices, and cuisine of your culture. You might miss your mother’s homecooked meals or that festival that happens every year that you celebrate with your friends and family. It can be difficult to cope with the perceived loss of these things if you cannot find anything to fill the hole in your heart that they leave.

The cure for this is to immerse yourself in your new culture. Learn their customs and traditions. See what their local cuisine is like. The odds are that you will find many things that you love about it. There is a good chance that you might even be so impressed with what you discover that you will forget about your home country altogether (only temporarily, though, so have no worries)! It is even better if you pick a multicultural place like the USA, UK, or Canada, as you will get to experience a whole kaleidoscope of different foods, practices, and people.

5. Keep in Touch

The final tip we have on how to deal with homesickness when studying abroad has to do with keeping in touch with your friends and family back home. However, there is a fine line here that you need to tread. If you communicate too much, it might only exacerbate your feelings of homesickness since you will not be getting out there and applying the rest of our useful advice. However, if you completely stop communicating with your loved ones and abandon your former culture, it might leave you feeling uprooted and alone.

The solution is to maintain a healthy balance. Keep your family up to date on what’s happening and have frequent chats with them. These can be in the form of text messages, phone calls, or even video calls. In fact, it is recommended to have a video call every so often so that you can get as close as possible to being in the same room with them. It will help to alleviate your feelings of homesickness. Of course, visiting them once or twice during your stay would be ideal, but it can be quite challenging to find the time and resources to do that, so video calls are the next best thing.

At the same time, try and make space for exploring the place at which you are currently located as well as attending to your hobbies and responsibilities. Your friends and family back home will probably understand this need for balance and will not find it difficult to give you that space. Furthermore, your need for communication with them will probably change. In the beginning, it might be higher but as you spend more and more time at your designated place of study and get acclimated to the culture and people there, you might naturally start feeling less homesick and therefore become more independent from people back home.

Homesickness is a Normal Feeling for Some Students Studying Abroad

After reading our article, we hope you do not feel like homesickness is some strange feeling that must get rid of. On the contrary—it suggests that you have a deep connection to the people, activities, and places in your home country. This is an admirable trait that shows you are not only a forward-thinking go-getter who is willing to pursue knowledge no matter where that takes them, but that you also have a deep appreciation for your roots and culture.

On the other hand, some students seem to not feel any homesickness whatsoever, even if they travel to the ends of the earth. This likewise does not mean they are empty husks who do not care for their country, culture, friends, or family, but that they are simply a different kind of person who is more excited by new experiences. Those students might still choose to stay in touch with the people back home, but to perhaps a lesser extent, instead opting to get the most out of their current experience and bring that richness with them when (and if) they go back.

In conclusion, either type of person is okay and valid.

If you are still at home and, by definition, not feeling homesick, then check out some of our other articles on studying abroad. They might inspire you to go study abroad and perhaps come back to this article when it becomes more relevant to you.

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