Before going abroad, you’re bound to hear from folks who previously went abroad that you’re in for the “best time of your life” and you’re going to experience new things, make new friends, discover new places and so on. But, no one tells you about the homesickness.
My first week abroad in London I found myself crying every night, breaking into my precious melatonin stash to calm down and fall asleep, and sending my boyfriend ten tearful messages in a row convincing myself that I’d made a huge mistake, I belonged back at my home university, and I no longer wanted to be here. If anyone had cheerfully told me I was having the “best time of my life” I might have punched them.
Two weeks in now, the homesickness hasn’t completely faded, but I’ve found ways to manage it. If you’re abroad or planning to go abraod, know that homesickness is a natural part of the process. There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re feeling awful, if your homesickness manifests itself in physical distress, or if you just want to cry. Also know you’re not the only one feeling it. Here’s how to manage it:
1. Disconnect from social media
This may seem counterintuitive as it means you can’t see what your loved ones are up to, but trust me, it’s helpful. My first week, I implemented a “no scroll” social media policy. I could go on to post my own photos, but I didn’t allow myself to scroll and see what my friends are up to in an effort to beat FOMO. Social media can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse that causes social media anxiety, so decrease your anxiety by disconnecting.
2. Talk honestly to people who have been abroad
No, I don’t mean the people who are going to tell you “you’re having the best time.” When I opened up to a close friend that, no, I wasn’t having a great time, I feel terribly homesick, she revealed that she felt the same way in the beginning. Speaking to her and hearing her reassuring tips made me feel far less alone, and we also began to periodically check in with one another.
3. Bring something from home
Above my bed, I have photos of my friends, boyfriend and siblings, and I often sleep in one of my boyfriend’s shirts. Although smelling my boyfriend’s cologne is sure to make me burst into tears, it’s certainly comforting to be reminded of home. Having photos of my friends also reminds me that I am loved and missed back home.
4. Be honest with new friends you make
My third night abroad, I found myself sitting across from a friend from home in a bar, worrying that I won’t make any new friends. “Everyone seems happy and ready to do things and I’m just nervous,” I told him. “Open up to them. You’re not the only one feeling that way,” he told me. And I did. Making new friends over coffee doesn’t have to all be fun and games—it can be opening up about insecurities authentically, too! And that can lead to some of the best friendships. Once you and your newfound friends are honest with one another, you can combat insecurities together.
5. Keep busy—but not too busy
My first night abroad, as I sniffled myself to sleep, I started small countdowns on my phone to things I’m looking forward to—how many days until my Harry Potter studio tour, a trip to Denmark with friends…knowing I’m busy and when I’ll be busy allows me little time to be homesick and more time to be excited! Nonetheless, be mindful of your mental and physical health and plan days just for yourself. For example, on school nights, I’m content to cuddle up with some Netflix for some self-care instead of going to the pub.
6. Remind yourself that it’s time and time passes
“Time passes” is my mantra for all unpleasant situations. Not to say study abroad is unpleasant, but if you’re feeling particularly homesick, reminding yourself that time WILL pass and you will make it back home eventually can make it seem more manageable.
Remind yourself that homesickness is normal and, hopefully, temporary—just like your time abroad.