After all the excitement, imagining and planning, actually finding yourself alone in a foreign city can come as a rude shock. Back home, you knew exactly which stores to go to if you wanted to buy new socks, electrician’s tape or candy. Suddenly, even these simple tasks become serious errands. The comfort of seeing familiar faces each day and the emotional support that comes from apparently inconsequential conversations with family are suddenly missing, and time zone differences may mean that they’re already asleep by the time you get up.
Dealing with major life changes is rarely easy. You’re not just weak and sentimental for missing the company of those who matter to you. Still, life goes on, and there are quite a few things you can do to make the homesick blues go away.
Actively Engage with People Back Home
Facebook and email aren’t the same as genuine contact, but when they’re the only link to the people you’ve left behind, it pays to make the most of them.
We tend to forget that communication is a two-way street. The folks left behind will be less talkative if you give them nothing to respond to, so avoid sending weekly emails such as “It continues to be summer here.” Include a few photos, tell them about what you’re up to and make the contents of each email reflect “you”.
Be Active and Make Connections
While you’re moping around thinking of all the people you’d like to be with, life will be continuing as normal. Instead of waiting for feelings of loneliness to pass by themselves, get out of your room and see a few sights, enjoy a few experiences and make a few new friends.
While there’s nothing wrong with missing friends and family, being lonely is partly your own choice. Even just getting out and about can be a wonderful cure for homesickness.
Look Around for Other Foreign Students
Many expat communities have a weekly event where they hang out together, swap stories and exchange advice. This kind of support network can be invaluable when you’ve just arrived and are probably feeling a little overwhelmed. Culture shock is a very real thing, and connecting with others who share your outlook can help to take the edge off. More experienced students will be able to tell you things like where the best bars are, how to save money and how to get around town.
Make Your new Home Comfortable
Hanging up little decorations, buying an appliance like an espresso machine or painting the walls shows your subconscious that you have taken control of your new space. Getting a potted plant shows that you mean to stay, while getting to know the people you live with or neighbors will make dealing with them in future a little easier, even if you don’t feel much like making new friends at the moment. Carve out a bit of personal space so that, at the end of each day, you at least have a sanctuary where you can just be yourself.
It’s Okay to Be Homesick
Missing the people, routines and places of home just means that you love them. While some people adjust easily, others need a while and just have to work through the process. If you’re regularly feeling lonely and depressed, try printing out a few photographs of loved ones and placing them where you can see them often, light some incense that remind you of things you used to do, or eat a favorite, familiar snack. Close your eyes and visualize your bedroom, siblings and whatever you miss most in as much detail as possible.
Best of all, remember that you’ll see everyone again sooner than you think – and will probably end up missing your new friends at that point.