As an international student, leaving behind your home country can be extremely difficult. Separating from family, friends and the culture you’re so infused in and beginning an unfamiliar chapter is distressing. You might feel anxious about the cultural shock, stressed that you won’t belong or you won’t succeed, but most importantly, homesick.
I was 15 when I left my home country, family and friends behind for high school in America. Since then, I’ve developed several ways to cope with homesickness. And I still use what I’ve learned, in college as a freshman.
For a long time, I wasn’t able to see the big picture. I would focus on getting through my classes and the year, so that I could go back to my country for summer. My perspective changed completely when I started not to see my time in America as something to get through, but rather an experience that would benefit me in the long run. So, think about the reason why you are here, studying in the U.S. instead of your home country. It’s most likely to gain an insightful education and new perspective, as well as to study what you’re passionate about. Whenever you feel homesick, motivate yourself by focusing on the positive. Think about the future you that will come out of this experience: a better and renewed version of yourself.
Personally, the culture shock was a major problem for me contributing to the homesickness. I didn’t encounter many people that understood most of my Turkish traditions, values and my identity. Relationships, conversations and the overall living experience felt different. Instead of trying to form bonds with people I liked, I would rather try to interact only with people that understood my culture.
Over time, I’ve learned to cope with this by learning to appreciate the difference in the cultures. This changed my perspective from thinking how strange this new culture is, to appreciating its uniqueness and finding joy in pointing out the differences. So, I strongly recommend you see the fun in it! You can actually learn a lot from being immersed in a culture different from yours, such as how behavior differs among cultures, and how the importance of values changes among cultures. This will help with homesickness. If you learn not to hate but rather appreciate and learn about this new culture, you’ll see that you don’t feel as nostalgic and sad about missing your home.
Remember, adaptation is one of the powerful abilities of people. Even if you’re on the other side of the globe: you will adapt. I can assure that it won’t be so difficult after a few months. If you think about the big picture and focus on the positive aspects, as well as emphasize learning rather than judging, you’ll feel better quickly.
Think about it like this: your home, your family, friends and your culture aren’t leaving you. They’re always one flight away. You are simply evolving and developing your identity and gaining new perspectives–living an experience not many people have the opportunity to experience.
P.S don’t forget to keep in contact with your family and friends back home. Talk to them about your experience and express your feelings! Even a short FaceTime call with your parents can help you feel at ease and lead you to feel less estranged.