Tip 1 | Take a break
My first tip when it comes to dealing with the inevitable pangs of homesickness is to stop everything you’re doing and get out of your room!!!! The rest of this blog can wait, it’s not going anywhere. Get out of the house and explore your new surroundings. It doesn’t have to be anything big, go and enjoy a coffee at your local café and people watch, go to a park or a museum. Just fight the urge to put on Netflix when you’re homesick, instead go and gently immerse yourself in your new surroundings.
Tip 2 | What motivates you?
Before embarking on your globe trotting adventure, global career, student exchange program or even college take the time to write down why you want go, where you want to go and what you hope to achieve whilst away from home. When I’m feeling homesick and ready to throw in the towel I always reflect back on my personal Why, Where, What and it refocuses my energy. You can make your Why, Where, What simple and small enough to fit in your wallet or an elaborate masterpiece. I am a very visual person so the latter works for me.
Tip 3 | Push through it
I understand when you are in the grips of homesickness this is easier said than done and having lived all over the world believe me when I say I empathise. The tears I have shed have left me exhausted at times and my longing for TimTams is becoming deadly. The bad news is that long periods away from home will make you question your choices and challenge you in more ways than one. The goods news is it gets easier and feelings of homesickness eventually passes. Humans are resilient, trust in your strength and I guarantee that your new setting will one day feel like your norm.
Tip 4 | Give yourself time
I know so many expats and foreign exchange students who enter this exciting chapter without setting realistic expectations. You are literally creating a new life for yourself, starting from scratch so you can’t immediately expect the same social opportunities. You are getting to know a new city and it’s getting to know you too and this can take months.
Tip 5 | Celebrate your choices
Truth: being in Ireland has undoubtedly been one of the loneliness years of my life. For almost six months I literally had no friends or social life. In addition, I work long hours in my everyday career, I study part time in the evenings and on weekends I travel. On top of that I am shy and find meeting people very difficult. I eventually accepted the situation about three months into my time abroad after coming to the realisation that I had made the decision to work overseas and like any choice it comes with sacrifice. I miss my family and it’s a lonely existence at times yet I can’t help but be positive because with travel the reward outweighs the risk. I would do it all again to experience what I have, travelling the world, learning about myself and being absolutely free to see and do whatever I want. Celebrate the positivity your choices generate and don’t concentrate on the negative aspects of sacrifice.
Tip 6 | Stay connected with loved ones but not too connected
This might seem cold but it has helped me immensely. Anyone who knows me understands I live for my family and I am the biggest cry baby when it comes to saying goodbye. Seeing families saying goodbye or greeting each other at airports makes me break down and want to join in on their family group hug and don’t even get me started on the last scene of Love Actually. Knowing how I am, I try and limit Skype to weekends as I find this communication medium the most heart wrenching purely because I am seeing an environment that is familiar. For example when I Skype my parents I see a beautiful warm sunny day, I can hear the kookaburras outside, I can hear my neighbours dog and my father listening to the radio as I envision him cooped up in his study reading his books and smoking his pipe. As much as I cherish seeing their faces, the familiarity of their surroundings always is catalyst for feelings of homesickness. Instead, I use whatsapp to stay in contact with daily messages, pictures and use the same service to make quick calls daily just to check in. I also relish in being a little old fashioned and sending my grandparents letters and postcards.
Tip 7 | Be selective with the timing of your phone calls
Sometimes due to mere time differences this tip might not be applicable however, do your best to avoid connecting with people at night especially if you’re by yourself. Instead I contact my loved ones en route to work in the mornings or throughout the course of the day. That way when feelings of homesickness start to overwhelm you, your everyday tasks wills keep you distracted and naturally pull you through a difficult time.
Tip 8 | Don’t romanticise your life at home
This one is a biggie. When you’re in a new city, state or country it is only natural to make comparisons to your normal. There will be aspects of your new surroundings that you will despise and this can fester into homesickness. However, it is these differences that will make this time in your life memorable and you will garner a new sense of appreciation for things we often take for granted in our home environments.
Tip 9 | Set yourself an unusual task
This might sound strange but become knowledgable about certain aspects of your new environment. Have you just moved to Belgium? Make it your mission to find the best chocolate in Brussels. Have you just moved to New York? Where is the best slice of pizza in the Big Apple? Little things like this might seem trivial, but they not only make you consistent in your exploration by encouraging you to get out of the house but the focus will make you feel more like a local as time passes by and help you quickly gain confidence in your new environment.
Tip 10 | Get into a routine
We are all creatures of habit and just as babies need routine so do adults. This is not just for expats or exchange students but for those backpacking for months at a time. A routine will leave you feeling mentally refreshed each morning and emotionally recharged.
Tip 11 | Speak to your doctor
If your general mood doesn’t change you should consider seeing a health care professional. The last few months in a Ireland have been a real struggle for me health-wise. I’ve been really irritable, tired and just generally feeling down. It wasn’t passing and I eventually spoke to my doctor about it who deduced that I had SAD (seasonal affective depression) and I am now taking the appropriate supplements. Long periods of travel and just generally moving to an unfamiliar environment places stress on your body as you have to adapt to new air, different water, different food, germs and particles. Look after yourself, eat a balanced diet and seek help if your symptoms worsen to investigate the source of the issue.
I know first hand how debilitating homesickness and the depths to which it can shake your confidence can be. Don’t let it win. If you’re struggling as you read this please know that I have faith in you. I have been in your shoes and if I can push through it I know you can too. I remember my first night in Dublin like it was yesterday, sitting in my hotel room, crying my eyes out, thinking what have I done and how the hell was I ever going to make it. My homesickness eventually passed and though I miss my family I no longer miss home and when you get to that point it is incredibly empowering.
Trust in yourself, you can do this.