Instead of grabbing the tissues, grab these helpful tips when you’re missing home
Like the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end”. This includes the rush and excitement of moving away from home to study abroad, discovering new places and people and then the crash hits — the tears, the sadness, and the groveling pit in your stomach of missing all the comforts of home. Don’t let homesickness rob you of having a rewarding and fun study abroad experience. Use these tips to help you curb those missing-home feelings and keep your mind and heart focused on the present. There’s no place like home, but there’s nothing like studying abroad and you don’t want to miss out on one of the most exciting times of your life.
- Lay off the Social Media
Don’t let FOMO take over your life, live in the moment and create new memories abroad.
Most of us spend a substantial amount of collective hours on social media per day and even abroad, it’s easy to get sucked into the social media pool and begin to drown in all the new filtered photos and videos uploaded every second. Thumbing through photos of your friends and family back home enjoying their weekend BBQs and beach days is a shortcut to homesickness and could give you those fear-of-missing-out feelings. One of the ways to cut back is to keep busy abroad whether it be exploring your new city, participating in school and neighborhood activities, and planning weekends in other countries. Social media is a great way to keep up with what’s been going on back home, but it can also make you sad. Know that beach days and BBQs are only temporary, your experience abroad will stay with you forever so make the most of your time by living each day to the most positive and fulfilling. Scroll through the helpful tips below to curb those social media cravings.
- Have Chat Dates with Your Friends and Family
Make a date, but keep frequency to a minimum, to talk with friends and family back home.
When I was studying abroad I made it a point to chat on the phone with my family once a week (usually on Sundays) to let them know all the fun things I had been doing and keep up with what’s going on back home. It was a call I looked forward to every week, but it wasn’t so frequent where we discussed every detail of what we did in our daily lives. Our talks were about the big exciting things like my mom starting her new job or my sister seeing a Broadway show or me talking about how I went to Ireland for the weekend. Did I feel a little homesick? Yes. But I also felt great that I got to chat with my family back home and that next week I would get the chance to again. I also kept a daily diary via Facebook messenger (I didn’t open social media to do this) and sent it to myself (I know, so weird) but it was a way to write down for my own memories what I had done each day abroad and occasionally I would send one entry to friends back home, whom I didn’t make phone dates with, so we could connect casually and keep up with what was going on in each other’s lives. Using What’s App and Group Me are also great ways to send free group texts to keep ongoing conversations with your friends and family.
- Self Love
Scheduling “me” time is important to refocus and recharge to get the best “You” to enjoy your study
This is a big one and is so important to embrace when studying abroad. One of the side effects of homesickness is anxiety and depression and it can hit you like a brick or come in slow waves, so take care of yourself. Social connection is important, especially when you are alone in a new country, but scheduling alone time and being comfortable being by yourself is also something to practice and embrace.
One of my favorite things to do alone is exploring the new city I’m in. I literally pencil out an entire day just for myself and plan out where I’m going to go. It’s liberating to be able to venture out by yourself, in your new city, and not have to worry about going this way or that way and eating this food or going to this attraction — you can do whatever you want and make your own decisions.
Freedom is not something that comes so quickly back home when you are under the parental eye, so take advantage of being on your own. I studied at Cambridge University in England, so spending a day exploring all the nooks and crannies of the little town was fun and I had so much to talk about with the other students at dinner that evening — that Nutella crepe food truck I found, the music shop where you could take guitar lessons, the boutique dedicated to Harry Potter. It was exciting to discover these hidden gems none of the other study-abroad students had found out about yet and I was excited to take them back on our next group adventure.
It may sound cheesy, but I also took a walking tour of my city too. Yes, the kind tourists with big cameras around their neck take. However, it was interesting to find out all the historical tidbits of Cambridge and get access to places that only my tour guide could get into. I highly recommend taking a walking or food tour of your city. It’s a great way to meet other out-of-town people (maybe even from your country) too!
A few other self love suggestions — keep a journal of all the positive things happening during your study abroad experience and read it back to yourself when you are feeling down. Find a yoga studio or gym where you can work out all those negative emotions. Talk with someone about how you’re feeling. It’s important not to keep these feelings of loneliness in — share them with someone, because no one you will talk to will have not felt the same things and they could have some good advice to help you. Regardless, it feels good to talk to someone and know you’re not alone.
- Get Social Abroad
Get out of your shell, little turtle, and make new memories with new friends!
Staying connected is one of the most important things we can do as humans to uplift our spirits and keep us from becoming too lonely. As much as self love and “me” time are important, so is building a social circle of fun and trusting friends you can spend your best days with. In addition to the friends you’ll meet at school, look for local groups in your area that are interested in the same activities you are. Hiking groups? Cooking Clubs? Movie Lovers Unite! See if there is a version of “Meetup” in your area to meet with likeminded people with a bonus of making new friends who are local to the area.
Ask the university or academic provider if there are opportunities for homestays or for being an au pair. Spending time in the home of a local can help not only curb those feelings of loneliness, but give you the comforts of home by spending time with a family. It’s always a great feeling to return home with more friends (and family) then you had when you first left home.
- Create a #Goals List
You’re independent and on your own in a foreign country, let’s list all the things you want to do with this extraordinary time you have
If ever there was a time to make a #Goals list, this is the time. You have freedom, the ease of travel, and hopefully a bit of spending money to get you to most of the places you want to go. Goals can come in all types and sizes including attending a music festival, eating gelato in every city you visit, taking a ride on the underground train, visiting the local farmer’s market, taking a bike tour around the canal, flying to Spain for the weekend, and watching a soccer match with the locals at a nearby pub, likewise attending guitar lessons in Leaside.
Goals, whether big or small, give you something to focus on and look forward too and keep you excited about things to come instead of dwelling on the sadness of missing home. Trust me, your #Goals list will be subject to a lot more envy from your friends back home, than their #Goals list will be to you. Especially since their list won’t involve eating Gelato on the back of a Vespa while spinning down a cobblestone street in Rome.
- Start a Morning Routine
Wake up each day abroad with a positive attitude and a productive start to your day.
It’s hard when living that crazy university life to be a morning person. Your morning routine might consist of rolling out of bed just before class starts and putting whatever product in your hair to make it look presentable, and then making sure the shirt you wore the day before is still clean. However, if you’re feeling homesick, a great way to keep yourself from despair is creating a morning routine that starts you off on a positive foot. Research shows that creating a routine is a way to feel in control of your life, leaving you less prone to feeling stress and anxiety — two side effects from being homesick. Your morning routine, depending on the time you have, may consist of making yourself a good breakfast, visiting a local coffee shop, or getting in some exercise via the gym or a long walk. Keeping a journal also helps to collect and clear your thoughts to start your day fresh. If you can’t fit in a morning routine, move it to an afternoon or even to a specific day like always having lunch with friends at your favorite cafe on Wednesdays, or watching sports at the local bar on Thursdays.
- Create a New Home Where You Are
Home is wherever you are, so create one that is yours in your new home abroad.
Even though you are not at home, you still can have the comforts of home where you are. Although one option is to decorate your surroundings with relics from your own room, it’s really about creating an overall home in your new country. Most likely where you are from you have your “go to” places like your favorite coffee shop, your favorite place to grab lunch, your favorite place to go for a run. Depending on which country you are studying abroad in, you can duplicate “A Day in the Life of” yourself in your new home that closely relates to that of your old home. Scour your city (preferably in walking distance or a short bus or train ride) for all the comforts of home that you can create abroad.
Find that perfect latte, the outdoor cafe where you can set up a laptop and have lunch, the place where you can go for a walk or run before class, the best ice cream shop in town, that bookstore or library you can get lost in for hours, the beach or park you can bring a blanket or towel and just take in the fresh air and natural surroundings. Create your own home where you are to leave you feeling more at home and less homesick. Plus, how exciting to have another place to call home.
While some of these tips may help you overcome being homesick, it’s always best to find a strategy that works for you. Tailor-make a cure for homesickness, talk to other study abroad students to see what they are doing. The main thing is to make the most of the memories you have with your time abroad so you can look back and smile and remember the fun and crazy and beautiful times you had and not the sad and lonely ones.
Anne Baron is highly experienced educator, writer and copywriter specializing in academic research. She has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration with almost 25 years of experience in teaching and academic writing. She spent a dozen years managing a large college peer-tutoring program and another dozen years in the classroom teaching college students. She has since retired from teaching and devotes her time and efforts to freelance writing for institutions, businesses and colleges like Patrick Henry College.