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Friday 25 July 2014

How to Overcome Homesickness While Abroad

Homesickness can hit even the most independent of people, especially when you’re also dealing with culture shock. You’ve just made a lot of decisions in a short amount of time, and all your hard work (and paperwork) has landed you in a new, temporary home. It can be overwhelming. All travelers have experienced it to different degrees at some point. The good news is if everyone else has survived, so will you! So read through this list, pick out what works best for you, and get back to enjoying the exotic new country you’re temporarily living in.

  • Make a “bucket” list. Remember all the reasons you were excited to hop on a plane to where you are now? Write down everything you told yourself you would do. Find new and exciting things you need to do before you leave. Written goals will get you out of your room and making the most of your time. Turn it into a game. Reward yourself with a local treat every time you get through 5 items!

  • Stay busy. Go be a tourist in your new city. Knock one or three things off your new bucket list every time you have free time. When you’re looking at a Van Gogh or Degas painting in person and staring up at Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower, you don’t dwell on what you’re missing at home as much. If you’re exhausted when you fall into bed at night, you aren’t likely to dwell on the homesick feeling.

  • Limit social media. Don’t stay glued to your computer. Life will always go on at home… and your life is going on in a foreign country! Live in the present, and make some memories you can tell everyone during a weekly scheduled video chat. Some people have even found it helpful to cut out social media altogether for their first few weeks of adjustment.

  • Create a routine. Part of missing home is missing your old routine. Routines are comforting. Whether you always have a breakfast that reminds you of home or you schedule a video chat with your loved ones at a specific time every week, having something predictable in your week can ground you.

  • Stay active. Go outside and stay fit. If you can’t or don’t like to run, take regular walks. It will help you become familiar and comfortable with your new neighborhood. After all, exercise boosts your endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. And if you can run past a castle or the London eye - how much better is that than your treadmill back home?

  • Record your adventure. Write in a journal, start a travel blog, keep an instagram diary, or just have a running list of things you’ve done on a Word doc. Writing things down can help you process your emotions. It can also remind you of how amazing your host country is when you look back on everything you’ve experienced.

  • Celebrate holidays from your home country. Find some expats from your abroad program, or show your new local friends how you celebrate back home. As an American in London, you’d be surprised at how many 4th of July themed parties there were - and it kept me from thinking too much about all the watermelon, BBQ and fireworks I was missing from home.

  • Meet new people. You can’t talk to your parents or your best friends as often as you do back home, which might trigger some homesickness. You might be tempted to sit by your computer and wait for a Facebook message or email. Instead, go to some meet-ups your program might host or interact with your new coworkers and classmates more. Who knows, you might find some travel buddies that want to take some weekend trips! 
Remember - it’s okay to feel homesick. It happens to the best of us. But once you’ve identified your symptoms - do something to beat it and get back to your adventure. After all, home will still be there when you return.