by Erin Elaine
One of the biggest fears people have regarding living abroad is homesickness. I’ll start by saying it’s absolutely normal and happens to almost everyone. Knowing that, just take a deep breath, and use these tips below to help you navigate.
Keep In Touch
Skype, Facetime, Google videochat. We all know they exist, but sometimes we get so caught up in daily life that we neglect to use them. Time differences can also be a major barrier, but if you make an effort to keep in touch, you’ll be glad you did. Hearing stories from back home, seeing your best friend smile, telling your family and friends your ups and downs… all of these things make you feel connected to the life you left behind. I’ve found that making a semi-regular schedule (ie every Monday or every other Saturday) makes planning easier. If you can’t do that, at least know what times you could possibly call (weekend mornings, Mon/Wed evenings) to be prepared.
Make your House feel like a Home
Make where you’re living feel as homey as possible. The day after I moved in, I decorated the walls of my new bedroom, and bought a potted plant. I also brought 2 framed pictures from home. Anything else that will make your place feel more homey (buying super-comfy slippers, getting a coffee-maker) will make you feel more settled. If you’re living somewhere that feels like a hotel, it can be hard to completely relax and let your guard down.
Develop a new circle of Friends
Having friends in your new city may seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of people neglect this in favor of facebooking with their friends back home. In my opinion, that’s a recipe for failure. Making new friends gives you companions for exploring your new surroundings, supporting each other through the hard times, or learning about a different culture. Being able to hug someone in person or have a laugh over a glass of wine is a priceless memory that will make your new country feel like somewhere you belong.
Occasionally Treat Yourself to things from Back Home
Peanut butter is hard to find and pricey in Spain, but every once in a while, I buy a jar. Another form of mindless escape is going to see an American Blockbuster in the theater (in English). If your family or friends are willing to send you an occasional care-package with goodies from home, make sure they know what kinds of things you want!
Commit to thinking of your new Country as “Home”
Eat the local food. Learn the language. Make some friends. Explore the local hidden gems. Travel elsewhere, so you can appreciate the sense of familiarity that you’ve begun to feel in your new surroundings.
When you feel homesick, don’t lament that you’re a failure or you’re taking your new country for granted. Feeling homesick is completely normal and you should expect it to creep up on you once in a while. Just take it as it comes, it will pass. During the hard times, check off a few items from the list above and see if it helps. Talk to your family. Vent to a friend who is in a similar situation.
Savor the Little Things
Living in a foreign country, sometimes the little things can sneak up on you and completely amaze you. The low prices of produce. The hue of leaves changing color. A warm breeze on a Saturday afternoon. A delicious meal at a restaurant. A sense of accomplishment after having a phone conversation in a foreign language. However it happens, whatever the reason, when you have those moments of WOW, savor them, treasure them. Look back on them when you’re feeling homesick and realize that life is a gift.
If you take this advice to heart, and find other things that work for you, maybe when you go back “home” you’ll have a new place to feel homesick for.