Homesickness Happens

Homesickness happens. Its part of studying abroad, as much as exploring and learning new things are. It’s natural for humans to crave the familiarity (even if it is boring) of home. It doesn’t always take the form of long-tearful phone calls to relatives, or the desire to get on a plane and go home. Sometimes, it is simply a want to go visit a regular hang out spot at home, or to be with the people you left there. There isn’t much you can do to prevent homesickness, it’s the getting over it part that can be helped along.

When I studied in Austria, I had a month long case of Homesickness. From March until April (I had been there since the last September), I contemplated if I wouldn’t be better off, happier if I went home. I had my reasons, and they seemed to be piling up more and more each day. The people I was studying abroad with were getting on my nerves, the classes were getting more difficult,  I didn’t really want to learn German that badly, I missed my friends and family, I was missing important events at home. The more I thought about it, the more going home seemed like the most logical thing in the world to do.

Homesickness, like any sickness, has various cures. None of them are guaranteed to work every time or for every person. Here are some suggestions to getting over homesickness that worked for me:

  1. Recognize you are homesick. There’s a saying, “The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.” This is probably the one step to getting over homesickness common to every person. It’s hard to solve a problem, if you don’t realize there even is one. It’s ok to be homesick, so admit it to yourself and do something about it.
  2. Stay Active If you are homesick, take a look at your schedule and be honest. Have you been finding reasons, like your favorite TV show is on, in order NOT to hang out with your friends or go to meetings and events? Be honest. If so, get your butt into the meeting. Keep involved and moving, especially when you are homesick. You’re less likely to think about how much better it is at home, if you’re having a blast at a group meeting or hanging out with a bunch of your friends there.
  3. Find something new. Remember the days, when everything around you was a breath taking sight? Studying abroad was new and exciting, and every new experience was etched into your mind? Find something you haven’t done, and do it. It may be as big as going on a weekend trip to a new city, or as small as checking out a new coffee shop. Even the smallest of college towns will have something new to do.
  4. Email, don’t phone, home. This might seem counter-intuitive. After all, your homesick brain wants to hear the voice of your family and friends, wants to talk with them and complain about how bad life abroad really is at the moment. If that’s the case, stay off the phone. Modern technology created email to write and let family and friends know about that type of stuff. Hearing their voices, and listening to their small talk and comments will only make your homesickness worse. Emailing them lets you stay in touch, but it probably won’t make it worse. If your family and friends at home are annoyed you never call, write them and tell them why you don’t want to call. They will understand.
  5. Indulge yourself. Cook yourself a meal that reminds you of home. Look through photos of your family and friends. Listen to some music from home. Watch a favorite movie.  It’s natural to miss family and friends, so let yourself miss them for a day or two, and then get a move on with life. If you spend all your time looking at their photos, and feeling sorry for yourself, you won’t have any stories to tell them when you get back. Then you really did was your time abroad.
  6. Be patient. As much as you might want your homesickness to disappear, it probably won’t go away overnight. Realize that homesickness is part of the adjustment to a new and different culture.

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