How Can I Deal with Homesickness?

Homesickness is something that affects everyone at some point in their lives. Moving away from home to study is an especially common time in which homesickness is felt and this effect can be multiplied when studying in a different country altogether. Here are some things to remember if you are worried about homesickness.

What are the symptoms of homesickness?

·         Nostalgia: comparing thoughts of home and your past in general to your current situation

·         Anxiety: extreme stress, obsessive thoughts and having difficulty concentrating

·         Odd behaviour: changing diet, difference in social interaction, confining oneself to a room

·         Depression: helplessness, low self-esteem, experiencing work/study difficulties, withdrawing from social activities

Despite its name, homesickness doesn’t generally have anything to do with your house or the area in which you live. It is the feeling of being away from the familiar, stable and comfortable place you previously found yourself in. It’s a type of sadness you feel when you’ve lost something that was once close to you, though of course, we must remember that this loss is temporary.

Homesickness is simply a matter of perspective. Things that once brought you great comfort and satisfaction, whether you realised it at the time or not, are now not there. Once you realise the feeling is just a feeling and that it is not necessarily representative of how things are in the real world, you can start to grasp the way your emotions change and adapt them for the better.

How is it possible to change my emotions?

There are two diametrically opposed viewpoints on ways to counteract homesickness. One is to engage with it, wrestle it away, and the other is to do your best to forget. Push it from you and hope that it won’t come back. Per person each avenue to curing homesickness may be slightly different but it is good to remember that taking it on and overcoming it will do you far more good in the long-term.

What Should I Do Then?

1.       Go out and do something. Anything. Do you have any hobbies? Go out and do them! Being stuck inside for hours on end and feeling trapped in your own room is far from the ideal place to recover from homesickness.

2.       If you cannot think of anything, pick up a new interest. Finding yourself in a new culture, there will be lots of local activities available to try. You are sure to find one of them interesting.

3.       Get of your comfort zone and enjoy what is unique about your new environment. Make sure you cherish the time that you have, it will be gone before you know it. Do more to capitalize on the incredible opportunity you've got and don't take any downtime for granted.

4.       Be brave. Talk to someone about how you are feeling. Contact with other people, especially those who are perhaps also feeling a little homesick, can do wonders. Failing that, keep a journal or a diary. Just letting your thoughts out and giving them some space to breathe can really help clear your mind and help you realise what the best course of action is.

5.       Be creative. If you find a journal or a diary too literal, be more creative. Paint something, write a story, build something, go and dance. Find something you love to do and don’t feel bad if you don’t enjoy something or it doesn’t go well. Just pick yourself up and try again!

6.       Learn the language. Not being able to speak with local people can feel like a huge barrier to social interaction, and of course, learning a new language can be very tricky. However, by practicing and interacting with locals who have it as a first language, you will learn incredibly quickly. They can also be very forgiving if you make a mistake, just don’t be afraid to try!

7.       Get lots of exercise. Exercise makes people feel happier by releasing endorphins. This can translate to an improved worldview and help deal with any depression or anxiety you may be feeling.

8.       Make it feel like home. Listen to some music you love, or get some things to dress your room up with that remind you of where you came from. Perhaps call some friends and family. We can all use a little comfort from time to time, just don’t allow yourself to become too caught up in thinking about the past. Remember: this won’t fully cure you of your homesickness.

9.       Be patient. Moving to another country is a difficult thing to do and acclimatising to it even more so. But things will get better. Don’t forget that life will be exactly the same when you return. It will be like you never left. So don't worry about missing out. When you get back, your friends will still be doing the exact same things, going to the same bars, same jobs, doing the exact same stuff. But when you return, you'll be a more well-rounded person for this experience. Remember that this is probably the only time in your life where you will get to have such a unique and incredible journey. And if that still doesn’t work:

10.   Remember why you left in the first place.