7 Tips on How to Deal With Homesickness Abroad
Are you feeling anxious, distracted and a little lost living abroad? Do you think of home a lot, miss familiar places and faces, and experience feelings of sadness that you can’t quite pin down to any particular thing?
Your symptoms sound like a classic case of homesickness. It’s a totally natural human experience, but it’s not very fun!
Many students at MIT have come to study in Perth from abroad. For these students, learning how to deal with homesickness can be a natural part of transitioning from home to a foreign country, where you suddenly find yourself dealing with a lot of ‘newness’. You are beginning a new study program with new people and living in a new home, in a new city.
The good news is that there are lots of strategies to deal with homesickness abroad! Taking the time to learn some coping strategies is important so you can make the most of this exciting once-in-a-lifetime adventure that you’re on, including being able to excel in your studies, make new friends and create a joyful home away from home.
With the help and input of some of our students who have experienced it themselves, we’ve come up with 7 tips on how to best deal with homesickness abroad:
1. Call your friends and family regularly (but not too often)
“When I feel homesick I try to speak my home tongue with my family at home and I also try to contact my family to catch up” – Arno de Beer (MIT student, South Africa)
Sometimes, all you need is a chat with your mum, or your best friend at home, and you’ll feel instantly happier. It’s important to keep these supportive connections alive and present.
But, if you talk to your friends and family from home too often, it can ultimately add to a reliance on this contact and increase your feeling of disconnection to your new circumstances. Try to schedule a regular time once a week that you can look forward to, while still making the most of your day-to-day student life.
2. Share your feelings with friends
“When I get homesick… I find that hanging out with my friends in Perth helps because they have become my new family now.” – Mikaela Villamor (MIT student, Philippines)
“When I feel homesick I like to listen to music that I’m really familiar with and try to find people with the same cultural background to hang out with it.” – Venkata Akula (MIT student, India)
When you’re living abroad, your friends become your family. Making friends is really important, so make sure you invest time and energy in meeting people, and getting to know them. They are the ones who will be there to support you, when your family isn’t around. Tell them about your feelings, your struggles, and your life back home, and you’ll feel better instantly.
Sometimes, it can ease your homesickness to spend time with other people from your home country. You can ‘take a break’ from cross-cultural communication, and be easily understood. But, it’s good to make friends with locals too, or you’ll feel disconnected from your new home.
3. Accept your new circumstances, your emotions and yourself!
Don’t feel bad about feeling bad. Moving abroad is one of the most challenging things a person can do, and trying to adjust to a new place while studying is even more difficult.
Living abroad takes a lot of emotional strength and physical energy, especially if you’re learning a new language. It’s important to remember to be kind to yourself. Set manageable expectations for yourself and accept that homesickness is a natural part of the journey you’re on.
Sometimes you might feel a little emotionally and physically drained. It’s important to recognise when you need to take some time out for self-care.
Take a day off study, eat some food from home, binge watch a favourite show on Netflix, or go get yourself a massage. Treat it like a small cold and allow yourself to be ‘sick’ for an afternoon until the worst feelings pass. Then, get back out into the world. Don’t allow yourself to hide away forever!
4. Go out and enjoy your new city
“If you are feeling homesick, try keep yourself busy: get involved in different social activities (e.g. sports or other interests), hang out with new friends, study, or simply call or Skype your friends and family back home. In this way, you won’t feel so separated from your home country!” – Ki Heng Yeung (MIT student, Hong Kong)
Some of the symptoms of culture shock include might include getting irritated by small cultural differences or comparing your new country to your home. It’s totally natural to feel these emotions, but don’t let them change the way you view your host country.
Focusing on the things that excite you about your new city will help to switch your mindset from one of longing for home to one of discovery and excitement. A few ideas might include:
5. Do some exercise, eat well and get some sleep
“When I find myself missing home, I like to play my favourite Mexican/Spanish playlist to dance and sing to, it helps to boost my mood!” – Isabel Kohlmann Nava(MIT student, Mexico).
There’s a lot of research out there on the connection between a healthy body and a healthy mind. Although it might not get rid of your homesickness altogether, getting regular exercise, eating well and having enough sleep will definitely make it easier to cope with.
Studying at MIT, students have the opportunity to join a number of different sporting clubs and teams at Murdoch University, ranging from hockey and rowing clubs to ultimate frisbee and cheerleading!
6. Make a home away from home
Developing routines and creating spaces where you feel at home is essential to overcoming the feelings of dislocation that arise from homesickness.
Make sure you feel comfortable in your living space, and you’re living with people you trust. If you feel uncomfortable at home, move. Put a few of your own photos or pictures on the walls to make your space feel familiar. Find a café or restaurant nearby your house or at your university, and make it your ‘regular’. Get to know the staff, so that you have people in your life you say ‘hi’ to every day.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
If you’re studying abroad, your educational institution will be sure to have counselling and support services available to you. Make sure you take advantage of them.
At MIT, there are lots of resources available to students, to help you adjust to your new life. If you’re feeling sad and you’d like to speak with someone, contact student services. They can put you in touch with student support staff, or organise an appointment with a counsellor.
See here for more information about studying at Murdoch Institute of Technology, your pathway to Murdoch University.
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