As university semesters are ending, freshers will be arriving shortly. Starting a new school life is always thrilling but unsettling, especially for those who leave home to study and live abroad. Feeling homesick is a common experience.
Leaving your comfort zones, starting a life independently, and encountering numerous new people in an unfamiliar place far away from home is not easy. Sometimes you feel homesick and wonder when you can return to the environment surrounded by familiar things and people. Approximately 50% to 75% of the public has experienced homesickness at least once. Having homesick feelings is common; let us accept and overcome it!
As an international student who is 9000 km far from home, I can’t go back home as readily and frequently as most of my fellow schoolmates do. There are times that I cry under my blankets because I miss my cat and everything about my hometown. I understand how leaving home to study abroad may be difficult and stressful for newcomers who are used to being near friends and family. So, here are some tips I found helpful in reducing homesickness and preparing for independent college life.
1. Cook hometown cuisines
One of the things that international students would miss the most is the taste of home. Hometown cuisines (especially those made by your family) are hard to recreate once you leave. If you are leaving home, ask your family to teach you the dishes you often eat at home, and remember every step in the process so that you can recreate it when living alone. Cooking and eating your hometown meals may trigger good memories and nostalgic feelings, which connect you to familiar flavors. Homey aromas and flavors can help alleviate homesickness and transport you back home. You may find it comforting and grounding.
Hometown dishes, believe me, are the best cure for homesickness. Despite living a long distance from home, I feel fortunate to have learned how to cook my favorite home dishes so that I can satisfy my appetite at any time.
2. Take your home comforts with you
Even if you’re far from home, let’s create a familiar and cozy space that makes you feel at home. Finding familiarity in a new environment can ease homesickness to a large extent. Bring something that reminds you of home; it can be your favorite snacks, mugs, or soft toys.
When I left for college for the first time, I packed my favorite blanket and snacks that I knew I couldn’t get in the UK. It was the best decision I’ve ever made since they offered me a sense of belonging and made me feel like I wasn’t so far removed from my familiar surroundings.
Another thing I would suggest is to incorporate elements from your home into your new living space. Hanging familiar posters or photos on the wall, bringing your own pillows, or filling your dorm with music that reminds you of home all contribute to creating a cozy and personalized atmosphere that alleviates feelings of homesickness.
3. Write a journal
Feeling homesick is a common thing that you don’t have to feel embarrassed about. Keeping negative emotions hidden can make you feel worse when you’re anxious or lonely. So, don’t be afraid to express the feelings of missing home. Writing a journal can be a great emotional outlet. It can be helpful to verbalize your thoughts and emotions to understand better what you are experiencing. Writing a journal enables you to recognize and affirm your sentiments, which may be calming. It would be helpful for you to keep a journal before leaving your hometown, recording every thought and feeling you have before, during, and after you depart. It serves as a mediation.
Except for recording the feelings of homesickness, you can also write down everything you feel delightful and grateful for in your study abroad life. Learn to appreciate tiny parts of life. Being apart from home isn’t a bad thing at all.
Writing a journal is personal; it’s a safe place to express your emotions.
4. Establish (not-too-frequent) FaceTime routines with your family and friends
You can stay connected to your loved ones mentally despite being physically apart. Using FaceTime to keep in touch with friends and family is a great way to ease homesickness. Facetime bridges the physical distance between you and those you miss, allowing you to maintain a visual and auditory connection. Even if you are physically separated, you can still share every moment and occasion with your loved ones through FaceTime. It helps you feel more connected to your family and friends and offers you a sense of belonging. A call can always ease homesickness when you encounter something unsatisfactory or miss home.
However, don’t call or Facetime your family and friends too often. Otherwise, you would become overly reliant on them, losing your capacity to live independently and intensifying your homesickness. FaceTime once or twice a week would be ideal for me. Set your own pace and establish a regular FaceTime routine while balancing it with your university experience.
5. Keep yourself busy
Being away from home and starting an independent University life in a new place is a unique memory of a lifetime. I understand how tough it is to overcome homesickness at first but don’t let it be a source of stress and a burden in your wonderful college life. Participate in society’s activities, develop new hobbies, explore new surroundings, or find part-time jobs or internships to fill your free time. Staying occupied not only makes your studying abroad life more fulfilling but also distracts you and reduces the amount of time you spend dwelling on thoughts of home. The feeling of homesickness is usually triggered by loneliness and emptiness. Your focus is shifted to other things when you’re busy, so you’re less likely to feel lonely or homesick.
Make good use of your time. Your college years will always be one of the most precious memories before you start working, and you will cherish them for the rest of your life. Feeling homesick isn’t always terrible, but don’t let this negativity dominate your life.
Feeling homesick and living away from home isn’t terrifying and uneasy as you may expect. Entering university is an exciting experience. You will always remember the time spent there. It could lead you to meet your lifelong friends, live the autonomous life you want, explore your future career, and bring out the best in yourself.
I hope the advice above alleviates your anxiety about being away from home. Let’s hope for the best and prepare for your university fresher year!