Ever since I can remember, I’ve suffered from homesickness. I was the kid that missed their mum at sleepovers, cried on school trips and looked forward to getting home at the end of a holiday. Not exactly what you’d expect from a travel blogger, eh?
Well, fast forward 12 years and that little girl, the one who’d bawl her eyes out when left with her lovely grandparents for the week, moved across an ocean for five months to study abroad. And despite all odds, she managed pretty well. In fact, she made it through with only one instance of sobbing tears down the phone to her mum. Pretty impressive given my past record.
Before I left, people warned me about homesickness. One friend, who had studied abroad for a whole year, told me that she was miserable for the first 6 months but loved it after that. This didn’t bode particularly well for me, considering the whole duration of my stay was equal to her period of homesickness. Another told me not to worry if I struggled and that, despite Instagram appearances, study abroad wasn’t smiles all day, every day. These anecdotes were comforting. They acknowledged that it was acceptable, and even expected, to have bad days.
They also scared me a little though. As someone who already struggled with homesickness, I suddenly questioned what I was getting myself in for. Why on earth had I decided to move across the world when I was such a home-body? What these stories didn’t prepare me for was the other possibility – that I might be just fine. Because more than 95% of the time, that’s what I was. Of course there were the occasional days where I felt that pang for home. The one that begged for my cozy double bed, scruffy pup and evenings on the sofa with my parents and a cup of tea. But they were few and far between, and when they did rear their head I knew exactly how to deal with them:
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1. Get a Taste of Home
Find something that gives you a little taste of home. This could be any number of things: your favourite food, a TV programme that you’re used watching every week on your sofa, speaking to someone from your country or reading your favourite book. Do an activity that makes you feel at home in some way.
2. Do Something Fun!
Did I have a big pile of work to do when I felt homesick? Yes. Did I sack it off as much as humanly possible? You bet. If you’re feeling down in the dumps about being thousands of miles away from your loved ones, I can tell you right now that reading Shakespeare isn’t going to make you feel any better. In fact, you’ll probably end up in a pit of despair and self-wallowing. Instead make an effort to do things that you really enjoy. It sounds obvious but it’s an easy one to forget. Give yourself permission to just do something fun!
3. Get Spontaneous
The week I felt really down, I booked a spontaneous trip to Washington DC. This little escape shook things up a bit and got me out of the space that I’d become used to. Exploring a new place completely distracted me from my feelings. I was too busy looking around museums, taking photos and falling in love with the city to be thinking much about home
4. Get Positive
This is something I try do every day anyway, but I think it’s one of the main reasons that I didn’t suffer from much homesickness in the first place. I write a gratitude list every single morning and a list of good things that happened that day ever evening. If I didn’t do this, any sad feelings could easily swallow up all the good parts of my day. By refocusing my thoughts on all the positives, I didn’t dwell on the homesickness so much.
5. Remember that Nothing is Permanent
Before coming out to the US, I was sure I’d be horrendously homesick from start to finish. Before I left though, I told myself that it was only five months and that I could get through it. Sometimes that feeling of homesickness just won’t subside. At times like these all you can do is tell yourself that nothing is permanent, that your homesickness will pass eventually, as will your time abroad. Before you know it, you’ll be back home. You are stronger than you think and you can ride this uncomfortable wave.
6. Get a Routine
When I arrived, I quickly created a routine for myself and stuck to it. Sometimes what we really crave is the comfort of monotony. At home we know exactly what we’re doing and when we’re doing it. When we’re in a new place, it can be easy to feel lost. By putting together a daily routine, I felt more at home. It gave me more purpose and less time for my mind to wander or panic. I just had to focus on the task at hand.