Adjusting Costa Rica Daily Life Homesickness Nature Nyah Tinsley Temple Semester USAC

Spending Thanksgiving away from family for the first time

Many people associate the holidays with being able to spend time with their families and conversing over good food. This is the norm for my family back in the United States as well. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where my extended family members also attend whoever’s house where everyone will be. We spend the day together and eat typical Thanksgiving day foods like turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, pies, and many other dishes. 

But this year was a bit different. This was the first time that I spent the Thanksgiving holiday away from home, away from my family, and in another country. Since I am studying abroad during the fall semester in Costa Rica, I wasn’t able to make it home and I felt a bit sad at first. In this blog, I will mention some tips to get through the holiday if you’re feeling homesick.

Spend time with friends 

Early November, I was thinking about asking my friends in the coming days if anyone wanted to help me organize a friendsgiving. That idea immediately flew out the window when I heard talk of traveling to Panama over our Thanksgiving break since our program gave us five days off for it. The weeks leading up to that long weekend, the trip to Panama became a reality. 

Never in my life did I think I would spend my Thanksgiving on the tropical islands in another country at the beach every day. We traveled to a group of islands called Bocas del Toro, which is close to the Costa Rican border, so we didn’t have to travel too far. While we were there, we visited various beaches and went on a boat tour that had wildlife I’d never seen before. I was able to see starfish, jellyfish, wild sloths, dolphins, along with many others. It was a very beautiful experience.

Zapatilla beach: my favorite one we visited in Bocas del Toro.
Zapatilla beach: my favorite one we visited in Bocas del Toro.
One of many starfish I saw in Panama
One of many starfish I saw in Panama.

Being with friends, doing so many activities each day, and seeing so much nature kind of distracted me from the fact that I couldn’t spend Thanksgiving with my family. It crossed my mind a few times while I was there, but I decided to be grateful for what I was experiencing at that moment. Not many people can say they’ve been to Panama. Even though I wasn’t able to be home, I was thankful I got to spend time with my study abroad friends as well as travel.

Talk to loved ones    

Loved ones can mean your family, friends, mentors, whoever you feel close to. For me, I am really close with my family so I often have calls with them. I didn’t talk to my family during my Thanksgiving break since they were busy preparing for the holiday and I had activities planned while I was in Panama, but it can be a good way to feel a bit less homesick. This has helped in the past since I’ve been in Costa Rica when I would miss home. Being able to interact with the people I’m closest to also makes me a little more excited to see them when I go home since I’ve been away from them for a while.

Pretty views from Panama.
Pretty views from Panama.

Allow yourself to miss people (but don’t dwell on it)   

This may sound counterproductive, but allowing yourself to be homesick and miss people from home can help. It’s normal to want to go home sometime during your study abroad experience because you’re living in an environment you aren’t used to. Almost everyone experiences some form of it more or less and it’s not a bad thing. In my experience, thankfully I never got extremely homesick, but when I would become sad at some points due to missing my family and friends, I tried to acknowledge that what I was feeling was ok. 

On the other hand, it may not always be beneficial to dwell on the fact that you miss home. In the end it can distract you from having a good experience abroad. For me, I wouldn’t want my only memories of Costa Rica to be of me feeling down and unhappy. Overall, a study abroad experience should be an exciting one filled with great memories, but it’s only normal to be homesick. If you are feeling this way, I encourage you to follow these tips and still try to enjoy the rest of your time abroad.

Read here how another student suggests dealing with homesickness.

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