Sun-drenched selfies and beach bikini pics; year-abroad students everywhere are giving us a bad case of Instagram envy. However, you’d be surprised to hear that their picture-perfect lives in some exotic destination somewhere are nowhere near as glamorous as they seem.
The social media epidemic that plagues our generation, where our lives have become a highlight reel posted on Facebook feeds, is masking the darker, less Instagram-able side of travelling. Travelling has always been romanticised in the media, the glossy pictures in Condé Nast Traveller, for example, don’t reveal the harrowing loneliness and homesickness that comes with living or travelling abroad. Intracultural differences can make you feel even more alienated, you’re miles away from your comfort zone and there’s simply nowhere that does a good cup of tea!
The first couple of months of living in a foreign country can feel like a difficult, uphill journey. Over Christmas when I was living in Madrid, I was craving a simple mince pie. I had my parents send over crates of English food and I was even jealous of everyone’s Instagram stories of their roast dinners on Sundays! And I’ll never forget the time my friends and I went crazy over the discovery of a Poundland in Madrid that actually sold Cadburys! Now every time I pass a Poundland in England, I can’t help but laugh at our girlish screams of delight that day.
Don’t get me wrong, overcoming that initial grief and homesickness was only part of my year-abroad, it paved the way to my embracing an entirely new culture and on top of that, really appreciate my own. It was undeniably one of the most enriching, exciting experiences of my life. But I do think it’s time we stopped glamorising travel and really open up that conversation, recognising the more difficult aspects.
So, to that end, here are 5 ways to beat homesickness whilst travelling or living abroad:
Reaching out to friends and family is so important - building on your support system and generally just venting your feelings will make the year-abroad process way easier. Seren Williams, a Spanish and English student at the University of Exeter, says “Face-Time really helped me feel less isolated on my year-abroad”.
2) Put yourself out there!
Whether it be going to a yoga class or joining a club, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone will really make you feel less isolated and lonely. Once you overcome that initial awkwardness and shyness, you will have built a network of friends in what seems like less of a foreign country.
3) A taste of home
Maintaining your routine and habits, such as watching Tuesday night’s Bake Off, for example, will make you feel less homesick. Even something as simple as a childhood stuffed animal will make all the difference.
4) Go out and explore
So you’re in a new, exciting place brimming with new opportunities and experiences, but you’re stuck inside, paralysed by homesickness. This is completely normal, but try and think about the countless times back home when you were dying for a change of scenery. This is your chance, so what are you waiting for? Go out and explore! [bf_image id="q4s6il-gd0h4-e74nv1"]
5) Embrace the new culture
Instead of highlighting everything that is different about your new home, recognise the changes you actually prefer. Maybe you are more inclined to a later dinner than back home? Or tapas are really taking your fancy? Whatever it is, try and stay positive rather than dwelling on what you’re missing.