2022 Spring Adjusting Alexandra Reyes Daily Life DIS External Programs Homesickness Mental Health Sweden

What to do when you miss home

One of my biggest fears about studying abroad was getting homesick. As an only child, I have a really close relationship with my parents and the rest of my family. While I can say that I have truly been enjoying my time here and haven’t necessarily felt homesick, I have definitely missed the comforts of home. Here are a few ways that I have been able to stay present in Stockholm.

Create a routine 

I’m a person who thrives on stability and consistency, so creating a daily routine here in Stockholm has been something that’s really important to me. Every morning before class I wake up around 8am and go exercise, whether it’s going to the gym, going for a run or a swim, or just a walk around the neighborhood; I always feel better if I prioritize movement in my day. When I get home I make myself breakfast and pack my bag for school, always remembering to bring a book to read on the train. Ensuring that I am able to prioritize things like exercise, reading, and eating three full meals a day helps me focus on what I am doing here, and helps me be more present and productive.

The pool where I swim in the mornings before class

Find a time to call friends and family

When I first got to Sweden, I found it really difficult to find a good time to call my family and friends because of the 6 hour time difference. When I wake up in the morning my friends and family are still asleep, and when they get home from school or work I’m getting ready for bed. I remember feeling frustrated when I would check my phone to see missed calls from friends, knowing that by the time I was free they would be in class. This was especially difficult at the beginning of the semester when everything still felt new and a little uncertain; speaking to people that I’ve known for years provided a sense of comfort in those early days. 

However, I found that the best way to solve this issue was to make a schedule for when I could call home. This sounds simple, but after being used to calling my friends and family whenever, I had to change that habit. After talking to my parents, we figured out that the best time to call was on Tuesday and Thursday evenings because that is when they get out of work the earliest. Even though we aren’t able to speak as often as I initially thought, I think it has helped to balance the amount of time I spend catching up with everyone at home and the time I spend with my friends here. I truly think that if I was focused on texting and calling friends and family, I wouldn’t have been as open to making new friends here. Knowing that there is a set time when I can catch up with everyone at home has helped me to be more present throughout the day.

Get creative with communication

In terms of keeping up with my friends, sending each other voice messages has been really fun and helpful; that way we would be able to fill each other in as something was happening and the other person could listen to the message whenever they got the chance. Another way, although this seems very old-fashioned, is emailing. Before I left for Sweden, I joked around with a few friends saying that my U.S. phone number wouldn’t work anymore so they would have to email me to keep in touch. Obviously, there are other ways of keeping in contact through FaceTime or social media, but I have found emailing to be an entertaining way of updating them. I’m able to send them longer messages about trips I’ve been on or just my daily routine, and writing them is one of my favorite ways to pass time on the train. However, my favorite way of communicating has been by sending postcards. I’ve been collecting postcards from everywhere I travel to, and I love being able to hand-write them and send them to my family and friends, especially for birthdays and other special occasions. I’ve also received some in return from friends in Philadelphia and from a family vacation my parents went on in Egypt. 

Postcards that I’ve sent to friends and family

Explore where you are

One of my favorite things to do whether it’s with friends or on my own, is just wandering around Stockholm. Whenever I feel like I’ve been cooped up in my room for too long, I notice that it’s easier to mindlessly scroll on social media and make comparisons about my time here in Sweden versus what my friends are up to in the U.S. Even just getting out of my apartment does wonders, whether I’m just simply getting some fresh air, going for a walk in the park by our neighborhood, or going to a new café to do homework. Some of my favorite pastimes have become wandering around new streets, finding pop-up farmers markets, or trying new restaurants I’ve never been to; all of this has reminded me why I wanted to study abroad in the first place. In addition to enjoying new experiences, exploring has kept me busy and helped me discover all of the different cultures and neighborhoods in Stockholm, which only makes me appreciate my experience that much more.

Exploring the National Library of Sweden, which is a 20 minute walk from school

Every time I miss home, I remember how lucky I am to have this opportunity to spend this entire semester abroad. What has helped me the most whenever the semester felt too daunting or overwhelming is thinking about how I only have four months to live in and enjoy Sweden. The most important thing is knowing that I won’t have an opportunity to live abroad in college with some of my best friends again, and remembering to stay grateful has been the best way to keep myself present and grounded here. 

Exploring the Södermalm neighborhood with a couple of friends

Read more about how other study abroad students have dealt with homesickness.

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