One of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome so far is homesickness. I used to think that feeling homesick was awful but honestly, it has been one of the things that have made me better now. It has led me to a better experience abroad. Here are 8 different ways I have found helpful for me in overcoming homesickness.
1. Learn something new
Study a new topic or learn something new every day, this will keep your mind active. I started to learn how to cook my host nation’s favorite dishes, and began that yoga course I saw advertised in my favorite coffee shop the other day. There are so many new things waiting for you to explore them. Being independent for the first time has been so great, I learned how to cook instead of getting sad and depressed. Also, the more you can relate this learning activity to your host country, the better. After all, you’re here to immerse yourself in the culture.
2. Explore your new city
When you feel homesick probably what your idea of “ideal activity” is to stay home and feel sad about it, but that couldn’t be more wrong. That was one of the mistakes I made in my first month living on my own. With time, I decided to change my attitude. Thanks to that change of attitude I got myself out there to explore so many beautiful places in Vancouver. Every time I had such a wonderful trip I couldn’t stop repeating myself “I can’t believe I almost missed this by staying at home”. Yes, it is hard, but if you are living abroad in a totally different place, why would not you take full advantage of what the city has to offer you?
3. Befriend someone from your home country
Making friends in your new town or city can be an amazing way to get involved in the local culture. That being said, it’s also important to have someone who can understand and relate to how you feel to help you through the process. I remember the first time I met someone from El Salvador in Canada. We spent hours talking about things no one seemed to get. The feeling I got when I heard slang words I had not heard in so long, it was just what I needed. You shouldn’t restrict your entire social life to other nationals. Having a few friends who come from a similar background and have similar viewpoints can make you feel less alone, especially in the beginning.
4. Work on positive thinking
Homesickness, like most anxiety, is prone to negative thinking, such as “I feel like I stand out here.” Learn to think positively. Write only positive thoughts a journal, or in my case, a vision board with positive quotes. Ever since I started switching my thoughts from negative to positive I became much stronger in my daily fight against homesickness. Looking for ways to spin the negative thoughts, such as “I am going to find new ways to make sure I feel like I fit in.” will surely help you overcome this challenge.
5. Make your new home a home
Having to adapt to drastic changes in one’s habit is enough to make anyone yearn for a regular, even boring day. You can’t bring your entire room or yard from home with you, but you can find ways, both big and small, to make your new space in wherever you are studying fee more – well, like your home. When I moved to Vancouver my first two months were very difficult mainly because my room was full of things that never made me feel like “home”. With time, I decided to do something about it. I bought things that represented me and added details my old room back home used to have. And now I love it! After almost 8 months, I am now telling everybody that my home in Vancouver is amazing!
6. Talk to others about how you feel
It might seem like you are alone in this, but the truth is that you’re not the first person to feel that way. You might feel a lot of pressure to be positive about the whole experience, especially if you had high expectations when you arrived, or feel the need to put on a happy face when you talk to folks back at home, but there’s no shame in being homesick. You don’t have to mope around all the time, but it’s perfectly fine to confide in some friends about feelings you may be struggling with. The first friend I made here was feeling exactly the same as me, and one night we finally talked about it for hours. I can’t be thankful enough to him for being there for me when I needed someone to talk and to tell me everything was going to be alright; it definitely helped me a lot.
7. Disconnect from social media
It may seem that social media should help you through this, but the truth is, it won’t. In the beginning it is completely normal to keep connected and constantly checking on those friends and family you miss. But I have found that that can be counterproductive at some point. For me, becoming less dependent on social media has made my studying abroad experience a better one. While it is common that we all want to share our experiences with the people we care about and it is fine to do so, it is equally important to not let that habit consume your whole day. Instead of spending all that time and energy on chatting or Skyping, try to know new people and explore around.
8. Find a restaurant that serves your home cuisine
The first time I saw a Salvadorian restaurant in Vancouver, I felt as if I was the happiest person in the world. Being incredibly proud of my country I wanted all my friends to try the traditional food from El Salvador. The first time I went to that restaurant, after two months of living here, I felt truly at home. It is always a great option to try new local cuisine and different food yet when you are feeling homesick eating your traditional food will help you fight homesickness. Nowadays I don’t really miss my traditional food as much as I know there is a great place I can visit whenever I have a craving.