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I could not have been more excited when I first arrived at Monash – my new university. It was my first time in university and my first time being away from home. I was too overwhelmed by the urge to explore and discover my new environment, all I could think of was where should I start exploring, and where should I go next.
After a long day of touring and exploring, I finally returned to my hostel unit. Out of habit, I greeted my parents when entering the room but stopped myself when I realized I was not at home anymore. Embarrassed, I quickly entered my room and slammed the door shut. I fumbled along the wall for the switch to turn on the light only to find that the switch was on the other side of the door. After setting down my things I dragged my exhausted body to bed. Extremely fatigued but unable to fall asleep, I stared at the ceiling fan for the entire night. Hugging the dolphin plush toy my brother bought me before I left home with tears gathering at the corner of my eye, I realized I am seriously homesick.
Studying abroad is undeniably a thrilling and exciting experience that many of us look forward to, however, it certainly is not a fun idea for those who suffer from homesickness. Homesickness is an intense yearning for home while being away from it. Homesickness that is too intense will certainly impact academic and social life, it might also affect physical and mental health. In order to fully enjoy the experience of studying abroad, it is important to know how to ease homesickness yet keep in touch with home.
There are a few tips to relieve homesickness that I have learned from being away from home, and I am more than happy to share them with you all who also suffer the same pain as mine.
The first step to reduce homesickness is to make yourself busy so that you will not have time to feel nostalgic or be emotional about being away from home.
The best way to keep yourself busy is to find something new to do. In a foreign place, you might feel lost and do not know where to start exploring. You may start by taking a guided tour around your university and try to figure out the layout of the university on your own a few times until you are accustomed to the pathways in the university. Once you get accustomed to your university, you will feel less like a stranger but part of the family, which helps to lessen your homesickness. University years are the best time to gain experience and knowledge through travelling, visit new places that are nearby the university area and do not be afraid to make new friends during the process. Be open-minded and do not limit yourself when it comes to making new friends as they are the ones who will help and support you while you are away from family.
Fill up your free time with meaningful and entertaining activities instead of spending your time sitting in your room thinking about how you wish you were home. Sign up for activities, join clubs and societies, volunteer for events – not only will you gain new experiences throughout the process, it will make your resume look good too. Be open and be daring to try out new things – whether it is a sport you always wanted to join but never had the time to try out, or a language class you are interested to take. Besides, you may discover your hidden talents and skills by participating in different activities, you may also stand a chance in showcasing your talent to people who appreciate your talent. By taking part in events and activities, you will also meet people who have the same interests as you.
By learning how to keep yourself occupied, you will spend more time focusing on the present and the future instead of dwelling on the past. You will also spend more time interacting with people in real life and less time scrolling through social media – which is the main source of homesickness where you see family and friends from your hometown doing things you used to do with them – therefore less homesick. Making yourself busy is a brilliant idea to cope with homesickness, however, be careful on time management as you do not want to overdo it and stress yourself out.
Now that you have classes to attend and events to join, what else can you do if you still feel homesick when you return to your hostel room?
- Make yourself at home.
Clean up your hostel room, tidy up your room and redecorate it like how you would decorate your room at home. Accept your new room, do not see it as a hotel or hostel – instead, treat it like your old home. Stack up piles of books on the table like you would do in your old room, put up polaroid pictures on the wall like you used to do in your old room, bring plush toys from your home and arrange them on your bed like your old room – familiar arrangements and items will make your hostel room look less like a hospital ward and more like a cozy home. Remember to maintain hygiene as you do not want cockroaches or rats to breed in your home!
- Search for things from your hometown.
You feel homesick and now you are also hungry. Try to find food from your hometown in the place you stay now to satisfy your cravings and relieve your homesickness! The taste of the food might not be the same as your hometown’s, you may compare them and give comments on the difference – you might have the potential to be a food critic after all. Also, find people who are from the same hometown as you to talk to – you might realise that you are not the only homesick person after all. By talking to another person who understands your feelings and is willing to share their emotions to you, you will feel that you are not alone in this foreign place at all.
Your hostel room is your second home. Like it or not, you are going to stay there for a few years; so why not make it a fun and unforgettable experience instead?
Despite all the efforts to avoid from reminding yourself too much of your home, you should never forget your home. It will be tragic if you stop caring about your family and friends from home because you are too afraid to confront your homesickness.
1. Send gifts.
Occasionally – not frequently – sending gifts back to your family in your hometown helps remind your family that you still think about them and that you want to share your experience with them. Try to select gifts that are meaningful, not based on their prices: a handmade postcard is worth more than a pair of Yeezys. You may also attach a letter or note with your presents to show your sincerity. When you send gifts to your home, you will feel as if you are sending a part of yourself back home and you will feel even better when you imagine their happy faces when they receive your gifts.
2. Make calls.
Most social media apps now support video calls or voice calls – they are free and easy to use – you can make a call anywhere and anytime. If you miss home, just call them! Call your loved ones during your free time: let them know how much you care about them, tell them how you have been and share your experiences and stories with them. Keeping in touch with your family and friends not only maintains the relationship between both of you but will also pull you closer to each other. It surely feels great to catch up with them occasionally, however, try not to do it too frequently nor avoid communicating with them as spending too much time chatting over the phone distracts you from your work however, not talking to them is not going to help with your homesickness by making it worse.
While you are busy attending classes, completing assignments and participating in social events, do not forget to take care of yourself. Self-love and self-care are important especially when you are alone in a foreign place without your family to take care of you.
1. Step out of your room.
Never stay in your room 24/7 as it will only make you feel lonelier and more depressed and causes you to be antisocial. Try to mingle with real people and talk to people in real life, you will feel how amazing it is to communicate with a person face to face than chatting to them by tapping on glass panels. Having a person to talk to not only relieves your stress, you will also receive helpful advices on how to solve your problems or concerns. University is not only about studying, it is also about learning interpersonal skills and gaining life experiences, so utilize your time in university to sharpen those skills.
2. Say “no” when you do not feel up to it.
Be brave to reject invitations from your friends when you do not want, or you do not have the strength to join them. Give yourself some time to rest and recover from your hectic schedule. You may need some alone time to relax or to enjoy things you prefer to carry out alone. It is okay to say no sometimes but do not overdo it!
3. Prioritise health.
Your health – physical and mental – are crucial for achieving your goals in life. Hitting the gym regularly is one of the easiest ways to maintain good health: not only will you be able to work out your body, the endorphins released when exercising will boost your mood. Furthermore, exercising also strengthens your immune system and improves your brain health. Besides that, reward yourself with a treat after you have accomplished your goal – whether it is a piece of your favorite cake or a pair of socks you have wanted to buy for a long time. By letting yourself to do things that you enjoy, you will create a sense of satisfaction and happiness, at the same time, provide motivation to complete your future goals.
Battling homesickness requires courage and determination. It is never an easy task to step out of your comfort zones – to start living independently without the shelter of your family, to blend in a foreign society where their culture is totally different from your own, or to break your own set of rules and dare to try something new – yet, you will get accustomed to it and you will start to love the new life you are having now and learn to appreciate the old life you had. You should take the initiative to get over your homesickness instead of just keeping it to yourself and wait for it to get worse – it is never too late to start!