Homesickness. It hits unexpectedly and lingers far too long. At its best, it reminds you of of previously unappreciated blessings. At its worst, it can make you feel so hollow that you wanna curl up in bed and forget about enjoying all the glorious experiences of living abroad.
Homesickness is marked by feelings of loneliness, confusion, and overwhelmed lack-of-control. Technically, those are all positive feelings. They are signs that you are 1. pushing yourself 2. out of your comfort zone 3. growing 4. doing something big. However, when you are in the midst of it all, it can be hard to stay positive. Here are some tips that have helped me push through bouts of homesickness.
- Stay Busy and Get OUT
It may seem counterintuitive, but your room should not be your sanctuary. The longer I stay shut up in my lil room, the lonelier I feel.
Find places outside your house where you can chill, like a favorite cafe, park, or quiet gravestone. I like chilling in graveyards (don’t you judge).
Stay busy, be in places where you have the potential to meet people and make connections : )
2. Use Social Media but Not Too Much
Social Media, particularly Apple’s FaceTime, has been huge for me. I call my mom to discuss everything from earth shattering self-discoveries to what I should cook for dinner.
I use SnapChat to giggle over the tiniest little things throughout the day with my sisters, just like I would if I was at home.
I use Facebook to stay in contact with my friends. When I post pictures, even the shortest comments from people back at home help me remember that in this day and age we are really never too far from each other.
Instagram is another outlet for me. When I post pictures and write captions, it offers me a chance to reflect on how blessed I am to be having these crazy adventures.
In other words, I use social media much more now than I did at home. It helps me stay connected with my loved ones across the world. But I have to remember not to get too wrapped up in my life at home. That would jeopardize opportunities to make new friends and live a real life abroad.
When it comes to social media, use it responsibly. Try to stick to no more than one hour a day.
It has taken me a long time (and a whole lot of intense inner fighting) to come to this realization, so please take it from me: you cannot live two lives at once.
Yes, make time to stay connected to your dearest loved ones back home. Don’t use social media to try and live vicariously in two places at once.
3. Maintain a Bucket List
Always have something to look forward to. Don’t miss out on all the unique opportunities your adopted country has to offer. Make sure to regularly go out and enjoy the things you couldn’t enjoy at home. For example, I live walking distance from a castle. Why stay at home and read books when I could pack my bags and go study in a castle! I know, it is a little crazy… but crazy people have the most fun.
4. Invest in Relationships
Don’t be passive about connecting with new people and developing friendships. You don’t need a huge group of friends. Just make sure you invest in a few fulfilling friendships. Having someone you can call to bring you a cup of tea or just give you a hug when you hit the bottom is priceless.
5. Get Adopted
I come from a very tight-knit family, so finding a family abroad was super important to me. No, your flatmates don’t count. Find a mommy. Find a younger sibling. I believe that if college students remain too long without contacting (playing around) with children, they will go insane. I would at least. In my experience, kids are actually much better than adults at making me feel included, needed, and at home. Church groups, babysitting jobs, and volunteering in the community are great ways to meet families.
6. Stop Comparing Your New Life to Home
Don’t fall into the trap of “oh this is so much easier at home” or “in America, this would NEVER happen”. You are not in America.
When I moved to the UK, I came with the expectation that my life would be completely different, and that it was going to be an exciting and positive change. I exercise different, eat different, study different, and socialise different than I did before.
Just don’t waste time comparing two disparate lives.
7. Try New Things
You didn’t cross an ocean or a continent to sit around behind a computer and study or check Facebook. You could do that ANYWHERE. Make sure that you are regularly taking part in the unique opportunities your new home affords. Try new foods, new customs, new words… soak it in.
Running always makes me feel better. In fact, exercise is scientifically proven to release chemicals that brighten your mood. Plus, for me, exercise is something I can control and measure when I feel out-of-control or confused. It is a healthy and cheap therapy option. That’s what I call a win-win situation.
Through journaling, blogging, and emailing friends back at home, I reflect on my adventures and learn to look at life through the lenses of wonderment and thankfulness.
Sometimes when I am facing difficulties I automatically begin composing blog posts in my head. It has become my way of zooming out and seeing the humor in tough situations.
So you see ya’ll, YOU are my therapy.
10. Bring Relics from Home
One regret I have is that when I was packing I was a bit too heartless. I didn’t think I would need relics from home to get by, and (to be fair) I really didn’t have room in my suitcase.
Still, sometimes when the homesickness gets really bad, I wish I had brought more pictures for my walls, more stuffed animals to cuddle, and more old journals to flip through. Oh, also, I left basically my entire library at a used book store in Noth Carolina and I still haven’t recovered from that decision. I wish I had brought my most treasured books with me.
Bonus: Meditation/Spiritual Refuge
For me, the number one way of dealing with homesickness is realizing that I am not alone. It is in these times of uncertainty that the Lord can work in my heart the most. One of my favorite quotes comes from a Christian book called “Twelve Baskets Full” by Watchman Nee:
If God leads you to walk a way that you know, it will not benefit you as much as if He would lead you to take the way that you do not know. This forces you to have hundreds and thousands of conversations with Him, resulting in a journey that is an everlasting memorial between you and Him.
Remember, God is our refuge, our very help in trouble. He never leaves us. Use homesickness to remind you to turn back to Him, talk to Him, and grow in Him.