Studying abroad leaves many of us not returning to the States until our program is done, being away from our friends and family for months. Although sometimes our friends and family come visit us abroad, once they leave there is sometimes a sense of loneliness and homesickness. Something that is common and natural response in that we are away from our familiar surroundings, it’s this feeling of nostalgia, sadness, and a longing for the comfort and familiarity of home. So, dealing with homesickness is essential for a positive and fulfilling experience in a foreign environment.
Acknowledging and accepting the feelings of homesickness, is a crucial step. I think it’s important to recognize that these types of emotions you may be feeling are normal and part of the adjustment process. Suppressing or denying homesickness may only exacerbate the issue. I didn’t really think I was homesick until the holidays; in that I was missing Halloween and Thanksgiving. In my case, my parents weren’t going to be able to come abroad and visit me, while I would see my fellow friends going to see their parents soon since they were visiting. I appreciate my suitemate and her parents for inviting me to hangout and have dinner with them, they made feel included and not so lonely. Which is why maintaining connections with loved ones back home is a powerful strategy. Although it was difficult since where I am from, we had a 9 hour time difference it was rough finding a time that we could video call, but we made it work, with regular communication through phone calls, video chats, or even letters can provide a sense of closeness and support. I think that even sharing trip experiences and updates with friends or family helps bridge this emotional gap and reinforces a sense of belonging.
However, building a new support network in the host country is equally important. Connecting with residents, fellow expatriates, or classmates can create a sense of community. Engaging in social activities, joining clubs, or participating in cultural events fosters new connections, making the foreign environment feel more like home. But so can creating a familiar environment help with homesickness. Even a little thing such as brining personal items, such as photographs, mementos, or familiar foods, can provide a comforting sense of continuity. Establishing routines and incorporating familiar rituals into daily life helps create a sense of stability and normalcy.
Being homesick in a way has its advantages in that exploring the local culture and surroundings is an opportunity for personal growth. In that you are embracing new experiences, trying local cuisine, and immersing oneself in the local customs can shift the focus from what's missed to what's gained. Developing a positive outlook and embracing the adventure of being in a new place contribute to a healthier mindset.
Everyone deals with things differently and sometimes you may need more of some professional help. Which is perfectly okay! IES abroad offers a sort of counseling service in that they can connect you with a psychologist if you need it. Because sometimes talking to a mental health professional can provide valuable insights and coping strategies tailored to individual needs. Since each one of us deals and copes differently.
When living or studying overseas, experiencing homesickness is a normal part of the adjustment process. The best strategies to deal with homesickness are to acknowledge these emotions, maintain relationships with loved ones, establish a local support system, make your surroundings comfortable, welcome new experiences, and get professional assistance when necessary. People can convert the issue of homesickness into a chance for personal development and meaningful cultural encounters by addressing it with resilience and an open mind :)!
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Hola! I am Ashley Carrasco-Hernandez. I am a first-generation student studying at the University of Redlands. I enjoy painting, watching movies (Fav Movie: Corpse Bride), going to the beach, stargazing, sleeping, and trying new foods!