Feeling Lonely or Homesick? That’s Normal.

Madison Palmer
December 2, 2019

Rewind to one year ago, before I studied abroad: If there was one constant whenever I asked someone about studying abroad, it’s that somehow every single person had the perfect experience. If asking a peer, it is likely that you’ve heard stories with some choice phrases such as ‘best semester of my life’ or ‘a life-changing experience.’ I am not to say that those statements are false, but I do feel that there is neglected conversation around the challenges that accompany a study abroad experience. Perhaps people don’t want to discredit their impressive abroad stories by admitting to any challenges that may jeopardize the image of that picture-perfect, life-changing semester. But I created this blog with the full intention of helping out others in a similar position to myself, so let’s get real. It’s time to talk loneliness and homesickness.

Homesickness is normal. You are choosing to depart from friends, family, and all sense of familiarity. Below are some of my favorite things I’ve done this semester to combat my feelings of homesickness and feel connected to the people I miss:

  1. Listen to music they like on the way to class. Playing their music on the tube in London has been one of the most comforting ways to start my days here. Have a loved one make you a playlist and share it with you, or you can spend time crafting a thoughtful playlist for them. Either way, it feels like an activity that we can share despite being 3000 miles apart.
  2. Send pictures of things that remind you of them! When walking around in London there are so many things and places I see that make me think, Oooh [they] would love that! Rather than just explain over a phone call, I love to snap a picture of whatever caught my eye because it feels like I am sharing part of my experience with them.
  3. Buy them things (within reason)! I love visiting markets to purchase Christmas gifts for the people I miss. It’s the perfect way to immerse yourself in the culture while also giving your days a purpose. Giving gifts is one of my favorites because it is a tangible way to share my experiences abroad with those I care about.
  4. Write home. Send postcards to friends and family. To me, a letter or postcard feels much more personal than a quick text message. Let them know you are still thinking of them! If you’re lucky maybe you will get a letter back.

Aside from homesickness, it’s possible that after adjusting to your new country you may experience waves of loneliness. In most study abroad situations you are intentionally placing yourself into an unknown area, fully well knowing that you will likely be surrounded by strangers for the next few months. In a way, I think studying abroad is comparable to the start of college. It is highly likely that given the unfamiliarity of the circumstances and the people you will be susceptible to loneliness. So how do you deal with it?

IES Abroad offers a number of day and weekend excursions. Getting out of the direct area you live in can be refreshing and a great way to meet new people. If the costs of IES Abroad excursions are not feasible for you, IES Abroad also offers a number of clubs and teams. These vary anywhere from creative writing and photography to sports games – there is something for everyone! Aside from IES Abroad-sponsored events, try to do one thing that scares you each day. This might be striking up a conversation with someone in class, trying out a new club, or even something as simple as saying hello to someone in your building. I am aware that these all feel harder than it sounds, but even you know it will be worth it. While it is ok to feel lonely at times, it is important to try to combat those challenges and go beyond your comfort zone!

Homesickness and loneliness are very real challenges abroad that people don’t often talk about. It’s ok to feel these feelings, but don’t let them limit you. If any of these issues persist and seem to be getting worse, don’t be afraid to reach out to IES Abroad for support. Remember why you came to this country in the first place. Remember that crave for new adventure. Manage these challenges and don’t let them hold you back!

Madison Palmer

<p>Hi I'm Maddy! I am a rising junior at Providence College and I am from a small town in central Massachusetts. I am the middle of five kids in my family, but I am the first to be studying abroad! I love to run and I think that's a great way to explore and learn a new place (not to mention it is some time in peace away from the chaos of a busy house!). I also love reading, writing, and all things makeup. I have been to very few states in the U.S. that do not touch Massachusetts, but I once made my way to Spain for ten days.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2019 Fall
Home university:
Providence College
Hometown:
Sutton, MA
Major:
Health Studies
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