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Monday, 23 April 2018

The Truth About Homesickness When Studying Abroad

Ever since I can remember, I've suffered from homesickness. I was the kid that missed their mum at sleepovers, cried on school trips and looked forward to getting home at the end of a holiday.

Fast forward 12 years and that little girl, the one who'd bawl her eyes out when left with her lovely grandparents for the week, moved across an ocean for four and half months to study abroad. And despite all odds, she's managing pretty well. In fact 3 months in and I've made it through with only one instance of sobbing tears down the phone to my mum. Pretty impressive given my past record.

Before I left, people warned me about homesickness. One friend, who had studied abroad for a whole year, told me that she was miserable for the first 6 months but loved it after that. This didn't bode particularly well for me, considering the whole duration of my stay was equal to her period of homesickness. Another told me not to worry if I struggled and that, despite Instagram appearances, study abroad wasn't smiles all day, every day. These anecdotes were comforting. They acknowledged that it was acceptable, and even expected, to have bad days.

They also scared me a little though. As someone who already struggled with homesickness, I suddenly questioned what I was getting myself in for. Why on earth had I decided to move across the world, when I was such a home-body? What these stories didn't prepare me for was the other possibility - that I might be just fine. Because more than 95% of the time, that's what I've been. Of course there are still the occasional days when I feel that pang for home. The one that's begging for my cozy double bed, scruffy pup and evenings on the sofa with my parents and a cup of tea. But those days are few and far between, and when they do rear their head I know exactly how to deal with them.

1 // Get a taste of home

Find something that gives you a little taste of home. This could be any number of things: your favourite food, a TV programme that you usually watch every week, speaking to someone from your country or reading your favourite book. Do an activity that makes you feel at home in some way.

2 // Do things that you like

Did I have a big pile of work to do when I felt homesick? Yes. Did I sack off as much as humanly possible? You bet. If you're feeling down in the dumps about being thousands of miles away from your loved ones, I can tell you right now that reading Shakespeare isn't going to make you feel any better. In fact, you'll end up in a pit of despair and self-wallowing. Instead make an effort to do things that you really enjoy doing. It sounds obvious but it's an easy one to forget. Give yourself permission to just do something fun!

3 // Get Spontaneous

The week I was feeling down, I booked a trip to Washington DC. This helped to shake things up and get me out of the space that I'd become used to. I felt like I'd been here for so long that I was just ready to get back home. Removing myself from Philadelphia helped to curb those feelings. Exploring a new place also completely distracted me from my feelings. I was too busy going on tours and looking around museums and taking photos to be thinking much about home.

4 // Get Positive

This is something I try do every day anyway, but I think it's one of the main reasons that I haven't been homesick very much in the first place. I write a gratitude list every single morning and every evening a list of good things that happened that day. If I didn't do this, any sad feelings could easily swallow up all the good parts of my day. By refocusing my thoughts on all the positives, I don't dwell on the homesickness so much.

5 // Nothing is Permanent

Before coming out to the US, I was sure I'd be horrendously homesick from start to finish. Before I left though, I told myself that it was only four and half months and that I could get through it. Sometimes that feeling of homesickness just won't subside. At times like these all you can do is tell yourself that nothing is permanent, that your homesickness will pass eventually as will your time abroad. Before you know it, you'll be back home.

6 // Get into a Routine

Another thing that prevented homesick ever rearing its head in the first place. When I arrived, I quickly created a routine for myself and stuck to it. Sometimes what we really crave is the comfort of monotony. At home we know exactly what we're doing and when we're doing it. When we're in a new place, it can be easy to feel lost. By putting together a daily routine, I felt more at home. It gave me more purpose and less time for my mind to wander or panic. I just had to focus on the task at hand.


1 comment

  1. I can not even imagine how hard it can be at times. I am such a homing pigeon, I am a sucker for my home comforts!

    Danielle xx


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