8 ways to cope with homesickness when studying abroad
While traveling away from home, on the pretext of studying, work, or on a pleasure tour, it is easy to miss the coziness and familiarity of a place you are accustomed to being at, and perhaps the company of dear ones. This is what is basically referred to as homesickness. Homesickness stems basically from the human need to be in the company of people and places that they’re more familiar with, mostly in search of the sense of security and warmth.
Security and love/belonging rank second and third from bottom on the list of Maslow’s hierarchies, which essentially postulates that when the basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter are satisfied, the craving for a human to human bonding immediately sets in. What this also means, is that homesickness would arise as a feeling of being denied access to such bonding with friendly or romantic fellow humans. Homesickness can be experienced by anyone after a prolonged exposure to unfamiliar surroundings, even if their basic physiological needs are met – the feeling is evoked from something very primal in nature.
Of course, different people experience homesickness at different levels. While some people are perfectly fine staying away from home for months without feeling homesick, the feeling can set in very quickly for some people, especially for the ones who tend to be a bit more emotionally sensitive. In fact, there are some people who report developing such feelings even before they move away from home, just by the thought of moving away from familiar environs and people. This is known as preemptive homesickness.
While such feelings of homesickness are completely natural, and on short tours, do not cause much of a concern, it could be a major issue for students who are out to study in a different country. Not only is it not possible to make a quick trip back home in most cases, but such niggling thoughts could plague the mind and prevent the student from concentrating on their academics. The article seeks to recommend ways to cope with such feelings of homesickness for students.
1. Make new friends
One of the main reasons most people feel lonely when they travel abroad for extended durations is the lack of company or a close circle of individuals they can talk to. Making new friends can be a solution to this. At school, you will most likely be in a close contact with several classmates, some of whom may be age mates for that matter. A good number of them will most likely share your likes and dislikes, which will create an opportunity to bond and cultivate friendship as you study together, and hang out, and watch movies in the company of each other.
While your folks at home cannot be replaced by classmates, friends definitely will make sure that you do not feel lonely. What’s more, you also get people to bank upon in difficult times. What this will do is to help you develop a new familiar circle that you can rely on in the time of need. Essentially, you will be making yourself a new home, which can (at least temporarily) help diminish reduce the emotional attachment you have for your actual home.
2. Eat out
In most situations when one feels depressed, eating good food helps. And whether you choose to go at it solo or with your friends, occasionally going out to explore different eating options will certainly ensure that you have something to look forward to. More importantly, you get to explore different new dishes that are a part of the local cuisine. Some of those dishes may be available in your native country as well, but nothing can substitute the authenticity.
Homesickness is a feeling similar to depression, or the extended phase of sadness that one feels after a break-up. Eating the right kind of mood-enhancing foods can help combat the feelings of sadness and loneliness. When your taste buds feel good, you are allowing your mind to have a reason to be happy and feel good too. Research has it, that eating good food stimulates the release of ‘feel-good’ chemicals known as endorphins.
3. Date a local
While getting to know new people is important, why just stop at just making friends? If you find someone who likes you, and you like them back, or vice versa, why not explore a bit of cross-cultural dating? Who knows; you could find someone really special during your time at the University. Pursuing a degree is by no means an easy task, and you if you find a steady partner to be together with, you can take your relationship to a significant depth through activities such as studying together, discussing homework, preparing for examinations, and working together on group projects.
By getting a steady romantic partner, you’re allowing yourself a vent to your feelings, both positive and negative. Dating a local is also beneficial in the sense that they probably know the place a lot better, which means that they can be really instrumental when it comes to making some fun date plans. If both of you are staying away from home, you could move into a rented apartment together as well.
4. Travel around and explore
Being in a new country can throw countless travel opportunities at you. And needless to mention, travel is one of the most effective ways to deal with stress, sadness, and boredom. It can also be a helpful way to deal with homesickness feelings. You could start by drawing up a new bucket-list of places that you’d like to visit over the course of your degree and make plans for the trips (including budgets). While it’s perfectly normal to yearn for places with lots of exciting nightlife and the possibility to hook up with strangers, make sure you also dedicate a significant amount of focus on natural attractions and tourist destinations away from the city.
You could also team up with friends to go on treks and hikes, adventure sports, parks, and museums or just visit some periodic events and festivals in different parts of the country. Traveling also gives you the opportunity to learn new things, which adds to the excitement and make you feel better about yourself and your environment. It can help broaden the horizons of your thought process and give it new dimensions, and even help to enhance your self-confidence levels. Most importantly, you have something exciting and fun to do instead of sitting in your room and ruminating over what you’ve left behind to study abroad.
5. Consider working part-time
Being a student, especially abroad can be expensive. It may not always be practical to fall back on your parents to fund or sponsor your leisure activities, while they are already bearing the education costs. So why not explore a bit of part-time work to boost your wallet size? Not only will you earn something to afford a more comfortable life, but it can allow you to develop some presentable skills when juggling between work, study, and personal activities.
While at it, you will also develop a sense of professionalism become more responsible as you get to understand what it’s really like to sweat for a living. Moreover, it has been proven that most employers today prefer hiring individuals with some work exposure, including working part-time while studying. Additionally, you’ll have the opportunity to meet new people and cultivate professional relationships while working part-time. Most importantly, occupying your mind with work-related issues can help keep your homesick feelings at bay.
6. Get into sports
Physical activity has been proven to have a huge positive impact on mental, physical, and emotional health. Staying active can be extremely helpful when trying to cope with homesickness. It calms your nerves when stressed, lifts up your moods when down, and makes you feel good about yourself, especially when your fitness levels start improving.
Another crucial aspect about sporting activities is that they help develop a sense of positive competitiveness in an individual, which is extremely important when you have taken the decision to move to an altogether distant country to pursue education. And lucky you, most academic institutions around the world regard sporting activities highly, which means that you’ll always find something that you can fit into.
7. Pick a hobby
Did you always want to learn how to play the guitar? Or did you have a dream of having an indoor garden? Or maybe you have always owned a professional camera, but didn’t use it to its full potential, like maybe if you knew how to use Photoshop? This could be the time to work on all such fun things that you’ve wanted to do all along.
You can enroll for classes or begin learning things all by yourself too. What’s more, the hobby will not only play out as a healthy distraction from possible homesick feelings, it will also give you something to look forward to, and in general, keep your mindset positive. This will most probably reflect on your participation and performance in class. Hobby classes also create an opportunity to make even more friends for a harmonious prosperity in your shared interests.
8. Hit the Gym
Staying away from home also means you might not have the people around who can care for you when your health is down. This makes it even more important to take proper care of your body and overall health. You will want to adopt ways to boost your immunity, maintain your fitness levels, and keep your body strong. And higher chances are that you know by now, that nothing keeps your mind, body, and spirit stronger than exercise! Lift weights, use the treadmill, go for morning jogs, and do whatever it is that you have to do to maintain a healthy weight and stay fit.
Simply put, hitting the gym can be beneficial in a myriad of ways, and chasing away the homesick feelings by lifting your mood and distracting your mind are some of them! Working up a sweat will not only make sure that your mind is full of positivity, but it will also make sure you have something to look forward to every day. When you start getting compliments for a better body shape that you tirelessly worked out yourself into, you will automatically begin to think better and feel better.
Bonus approach: Understand the phases of Homesickness
While the above points are some sure-shot ways to prevent, chase away, or reduce homesickness, it is crucial to have a positive sense about it and remember that such feelings are naturally bound to occur at some point or the other during your study abroad. What’s more interesting is the fact that they tend to be more pronounced among individuals with excellent family relations back home.
The fact that you’re missing your home, friends, and family members, is proof enough that you’ve left behind a great place and the people in it. For this reason, it can be prudent to learn to accept and embrace your homesick feelings rather than just working your nuts off to push them away always.
It’s important to also understand how to deal with the three common phases of change, which include the following:
- The honeymoon phase – the period of anxiety, fun, and excitement when experiencing or discovering something new.
- The shock phase – this is where the excitement starts to wear off and things start feeling ordinary and familiar. The feelings of homesickness tend to stem from this phase.
- The recovery phase – this is the phase where you realize unfamiliar circumstances or situations and start coming to terms with the situation and start adjusting to make room for change.
The stages of homesickness may vary from one person to the other, but the general idea is to put the above-mentioned tips to use during the recovery phase. The aim should be to ensure that such feelings that crop up during the second phase do not transcend you into negativity. While you might want to choose to follow one or more of the eight ways that we recommend, it is also equally important to stay in touch with your folks back home. Maybe a video call with all the near and dear ones every Friday morning could certainly not be a bad option to try.
If you have to travel to your school using the bus or train, maybe you could explore some mobile games, just to resist overdoing social media and getting reminded of things in your native town too often. And games such as PUBG, pussy888, Artifact, lm333, and Football Manager may just keep your mind occupied at such times. The key to ensuring that you do not fall victim to homesickness is to ensure that you keep your mind busy and active in the right, positive things.
- Traveling abroad? Tern offers a simple, affordable solution to global data plans
- Twelve South’s AirFly helps make traveling is a little less annoying
- Preparation tips you should always remember when you are traveling