Studying abroad is probably one of the most life-changing and exciting parts of your life. Whether you find yourself in a new city with a melting pot of cultures and a huge transit line that seems to stretch for miles, or in a smaller town with ancient buildings surrounded by cobblestone paths and loads of nature, you are almost always bound to discover or learn something new about this different culture.. Nevertheless, despite how strange yet fulfilling it is to immerse yourself in a completely new culture, moments of doubt, loneliness, and homesickness seem to almost always seem to creep in. And usually at the worst of times as well.
I am definitely no stranger to such feelings. Though I absolutely love being able to live right in the city of Hamburg and take in its beauty and quirks fully, I would be lying if I said that everyday was like a scene out of a movie. In fact, just last week I spent my day stressed out attempting to read pages upon pages of texts regarding sociological theory all the while trying to find time and even a place to wash my laundry, as the one in the dormitory hallway unfortunately broke. Times like these, times when it feels like everything is going the wrong way and you feel as if you have no direction over your life, are when you feel most alone. The amount of times I wanted to reach out to my mom or friends and ask them to come over and help are uncountable. And even simple things, like quick runs to Target, Wawa coffee, and breakfast diners are definitely yearnings that always seem to hit at random times.
Nevertheless, whether you are missing a close friend or family member or the atmosphere and ambience of your hometown, here are a few tips you should keep in mind in order to overcome homesickness.
Stay Off Social Media
I know, easier said than done. But constantly checking social networks like Instagram or Facebook may make you feel like you are missing out on other opportunities. It may also increase the likelihood of comparing yourself to your friends in your home country. If anything, the consistent scrolling through photos just takes away time from your own study abroad experience. Consider setting a timer to ensure that you are limiting your time on social networks and if necessary, find a weekly or biweekly time to message or phone friends or family from home to keep them updated on your life abroad.
Bring What You Love Abroad
During my first few weeks in Hamburg, I felt a bit out of place. All of my freetime activities spent in the United States were a bit limited due to the excitement of living in a city. But eventually, when a routine began to take shape, I found myself longing for my favorite hobbies in the United States. For me, this was running. At first, I was a bit self-conscious about running around my new area, mostly because it was completely unknown to me and because there were almost always people walking around. But despite my anxieties, running has proved to be a form of exercise that has not only cleared my mind but also helps me feel active and awake during times of lethargicness and loneliness. Likewise, hobbies like photography have forced me to go out, buy a new and (cheap) film camera and explore the city through both my own and my camera’s lenses. On days when the weather is especially nice, photography, as well as reading outdoors, has pushed me out of my dorm and into the world. Picking up a new hobby or sport abroad can be just as beneficial, as it forces you to not only interact with new people but also learn a side yourself you may have never experienced before.
Give Yourself A Self-Care Day
I think it is safe to say that homesickness is synonymous with sluggish and apathetic behavior, especially to ourselves. I know that when I feel lonely, my motivation tends to drop to zero and I spend most of my day in bed with the curtains drawn binging whatever Netflix series is trending. And yes, while we all have those days where we sleep in just a little too late and stay in our pajamas until noon, taking some time to clean up your space can make all the difference. Whether you have a heap of laundry sitting in the corner of the room, an empty stomach that has not eaten since yesterday morning, or a closet that is in desperate need of being reorganized, take some time to take care of yourself and the space you are living in. Even if it means ticking off just one out of the several boxes on your “To-Do” list, finishing a single task can make you feel that much more accomplished and less lonely.
Homesickness is something we all deal with, especially those who study abroad. Luckily, there are always ways to overcome or at least ease the feeling of loneliness that is common during a semester or year abroad.