After having planned your trip for a long time, you finally arrived abroad and are enjoying your new life! At first, everything seems amazing: you are meeting great people, traveling a lot, taking interestingg classes…but after a while, the excitement of the beginning seems to slowly fade away and you realize that you kind of miss home.
Don’t worry, you are not a strange specimen of traveler. You are just experiencing the downside of the “study abroad emotional rollercoaster” when, after the happiness of your first encounter with your new country, you get a little homesick. For some, it goes away quickly, for others, it can be a little harder to overcome. Don’t let it ruin your semester!
Here are some of my tips for coping with homesickness when studying abroad:
1. Pack a little bit of home with you before leaving
Don’t forget to pack a photo album that you love or a stuffed animal from your childhood. It might seem a cheesy at first, but you will be thankful later on for having something that reminds you of home.
2. Make your apartment your new home
Take a trip to the local Ikea and buy a few items to decorate your apartment. Create a cozy ambiance with paintings, plants, etc. and put your mark on this space that will be yours for the semester to come!
3. Create your own routine
What do you do when you feel sad? You try to keep your mind busy. Create a daily routine doing little things like making your morning cup of coffee or taking a walk on campus…anything that creates regular habits will help you feel like you are taking control over your new environment.
4. Keep contact with your friends and family
There are plenty of ways to keep contact with your loved ones! Don’t be afraid to call your friends and family to ask for a little support. They will be happy to hear from you, and you will be relieved to hear some familiar voices.
5. Work on yourself
The thing that really helped me overcome homesickness was working on myself. Instead of feeling blue, try to do things that you have been meaning to do but for same reason haven’t. Maybe you have been wishing to get fit, or you have always wanted to start a personal journal… now is the right time!
6. Make local friends
They can show you around and probably teach you a thing or two about the city you live in!
7. Make a bucket list of things you want to achieve during the semester
Maybe you want to eat strange food, manage to talk to the cab driver by yourself, make a local friend or ace your classes. Try to make a mix of easy tasks and bigger challenges. You will be able to cross out items regularly and get a refreshing feeling of accomplishment.
8. Organize a party with all your international friends
Sometimes when you feel homesick, the only thing you want to be is alone. Resist the temptation to stay down in the dumps and invite some other international friends over for a nice evening. Everybody can cook a meal from home and share their stories, including all the funny local anecdotes of things you’ve experienced while abroad (you’ll have plenty of them).
9. Get involved
One of my roommates in Shanghai was involved in an international students association on campus that would organize various events for students. I found it such a great way to make new friends and get busy doing interesting activities. Find a local organization or charity that interests you and try to make a change!
10. Don’t forget – it’s just a phase
My last piece of advice is for you not to overthink it. There is nothing wrong about feeling a little homesick and you should not feel guilty about it! This phase will pass faster than you think. Trust me, you will soon be more preoccupied by the fact that the end of your semester is around the corner (what, already?!).
Amandine Tristani (Pace University) studied abroad in China with TEAN.