All the expats or students who have lived even for a short period abroad, have felt at least once homesickness. Some less fortunate people have experienced this multiple times, to the point they couldn’t enjoy their experience. So how can you overcome homesickness abroad? Is it normal to suffer from this malaise?
A short recap of my personal experience
For almost half of my life I have lived abroad. And even though, I have never regretted my decisions (on the contrary!), there were highs and lows about it, just like in everything. One of the hardest things to deal with was homesickness.
I remember my heart cracking when I had to say goodbye to my parents and my brother at the airport security check for the first time. I even cried on the plane as a result of a mix between fear and stress. Of course, I was very young, and I didn’t know what to do with my life. But that doesn’t diminish in any way the importance of dealing with homesickness.
So how do you do that?
Note: This blog post highlights the methods I have personally used to deal with homesickness, as well as the methods my expat friends have used themselves. In some cases, homesickness is a serious psychological condition that can lead to depression and anxiety. If it feels too overwhelming, you should ask for the help of a professional.
How to overcome homesickness abroad
It’s completely normal to feel homesick when you are experiencing life abroad, especially the first time as a student or as a young adult who wants to see the world. That’s why as a first step to recovery you should:
Embrace missing home
That’s right. Do not be afraid or ashamed of missing your home. This is going to sound brutal but there is a French song that says “Partir, c’est mourir un peu” which means “Going away is to die a little”.
It’s true, to an extent.
You are going to leave your family, friends, and routine behind to reborn into a new life. Take a little time of grief. Even have a good cry (yes even if you are a man!), it’s so good for your soul. You will feel a load off your mind. And that’s when you can take the next step.
Focus on your new opportunity
Moving abroad is an exciting adventure. You can discover new places, make new friends and find out many new opportunities you didn’t know you could have. It’s also a moment to think of the habits you want to change, and to think of what you want to focus on. You can start over! And move on from all the toxic habits/relationships you had.
I also find this very particular time of your life is perfect for taking a step back and acknowledging what you have achieved so far. Take the win you had, and learn from your mistakes. And set the foundations of a new healthy routine and meaningful connections.
Of course, you shouldn’t completely forget about your “before”, just breathe the wind of changes!
Accept that life will go on
Home will still be there, but life will go on. You will miss birthdays, weddings, births, etc… That’s normal. Instead of being sad about what you have left behind, think of what you have: your new life, friends, and (why not) family. Learn to be grateful.
Also, there is a great benefit that comes from this. Your interactions with home will be more important and meaningful. Don’t take me wrong, I have always loved my family, but since I moved abroad my time with them has become even more precious. We don’t talk every day, but when we do we have deeper conversations. Although, it’s difficult talking about health problems when there are 8.000 km in between.
In the same optics, the reunions will be cherished moments when you will get to exchange about your adventures. Be ready to become the center of attention. I’m always a star at family reunions with my stories of caimans, spiders, and anacondas in the Amazonian Forest.
Meet new friends
I wrote an exhaustive guide about making friends in a new city. If I had to resume it I’d say don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there. Get off of your shell (and of your comfort zone). Throw a house/dorm warming party. Explore your surroundings. Meeting and connecting with new people is one of the best things about moving abroad.
Above all remember to stay true to yourself. Don’t compromise your values for someone else. Even though we get a new start we should stay true to our personality and attitude.
Be proactive and craft your new life
Avoid sitting in your new room, apartment, or house just waiting for things to happen. Make the opportunities you have identified above happen! You have to stay active and keep yourself busy. It could be exploring your surroundings or trying a new sport or hobby. Whatever will help you create a new pattern and will keep your head away from home.
Before heading over the next step I want to focus on the benefits of sports. Besides improving your health, which is awesome already, it will also improve your mood and self-esteem. And you shouldn’t forget it’s one of the best ways for making new friends. How could it be better?
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help
If you feel like things are going South, don’t hesitate to ask for help. It could be because the administrative paperwork take too long, you have difficulties in finding a job, or that exam feels insurmountable. No matter the problem, TALK to the people you trust. Even if they are far away, their support may be the encouragement you need to feel more optimistic after a difficult day.
In the same fashion, you shouldn’t be ashamed of telling to the people around you, that you are facing some difficulties. Maybe they have gone through all that before you and they may know exactly what to do to help you.
I also kept this point at last because if you are reading this it means that you probably are already at the point where talking about your problems with a friend could boost your morale. So please don’t hesitate to lift your phone to call your mom or your best friend, write them a text, or why not if you have already found new trusty friends open up to them over a cup of tea or coffee.
I wish you to overcome all your fears and enjoy this incredible adventure!
You are not alone we have all been there, and you will feel better. Living abroad is so exciting and rewarding. It’s also one of the experiences that will forge your character and if you have the chance you should taste life abroad. Of course, there is no need to go to the other side of the planet, even an experience in a neighboring country or state can be enriching and a good first test to see if it’s your kind of life.
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