Thursday 12 March 2015

How to cope with homesickness on your Year Abroad

- Trisha Mukerjee

Being away from home does seem exciting, but once you cross the bridge, you realise what home really means to you. In the first year of living abroad, homesickness is quite natural for students. It's important to remember that this is an important part of growing up and becoming independent.  This feeling of missing home needs to be acknowledged in a constructive way and then work towards curbing and turning it into a strength rather than a reason to give up.

While at the time of your lowest, moving back home might seem tempting and it would require some sort of patience to keep a hold on to this feeling. Here are a few ways to help with the feeling of homesickness.

1. Take the initiative to make new friends: When you are in a different country, you should make sure that you take the initiative to make new friends. Even if you feel left out, and find it quite difficult to make friends, it's worth it - friends are so important! No matter how difficult is it, it's worth making the effort and taking the first step.

You could do any of the following:

  • Invite people over or go out with your classmates; make an effort to introduce yourself,

  • Mix in a diverse crowd! Going abroad is an opportunity to meet people you would never have met back home - so embrace it and don't let any first impressions stop you from trying to get to know someone.

  • Don't worry if you are naturally an introvert or a shy person - people will still want to be friends with you! People generally gel on well with shy and introvert people; they are often viewed as sympathetic and a termed as good listeners.

  • Lastly, remember that friendships grow gradually. Don't force yourself on someone – let them take time to get to know you.

2. Try to enjoy your own company: At certain times, it really doesn’t matter if you have friends around you or not. Being abroad is also a chance to learn to enjoy your own company, and look after your wellbeing. One of the best ways to avoid being home sick is to be busy. Having a lot on your plate, helps you not to think too much about what you are missing at home You could try doing the following things to keep yourself busy and occupied:

    1. Sports, physical exercise, yoga, dance etc.

    2. Reading, or trying out creative hobbies like photography, writing, drawing etc.

    3. Pick up part time work that you like – this is also another way you could meet new people

    4. Explore your surroundings: When you have nothing better to do, go around the campus, explore every inch of it. Travel around! If you have the money you could even buy a bike, and cycle around.

    5. You could even try some volunteering work. If you're at a university abroad, some campuses have a community development centre, where volunteering opportunities are advertised. Volunteering is a worthwhile activity, but it's also good for your mental health.

3. Stay connected to your family and friends: Never ever lose touch with your family and friends from home. They're a valuable source of support and can really boost your mood if you're down. Whenever you miss them, just Skype or call them. In this digital world, communication has become incredibly easy across international borders.

4. If things are getting really bad, get support. Contact your university support services back at home, and if you're at a university abroad, visit the counselling services. Talk to them, and don’t lose hope. Often, you'll be able to get the support you need without having to come back home, but equally don't feel like you're necessarily making a mistake or 'giving up' by going back - the most important thing is to make sure that you're getting the support you need so that things don't get worse.

Cultivate a social life, keep yourself busy, enjoy course work and always remember – your home is always there for you. Now is the time to grow and spread your wings!

Trisha MukerjeeAuthor Bio: Trisha is a professional writer and adviser on education and careers. She is an ardent reader, a traveller and a passionate photographer. She wants to explore the world and write about whatever comes across her way.