The word homesick can be dated back to the mid-1700s with a German word Heimweh, a compound of the words heim “home” and weh “woe”. The word first being documented by Swiss people, particularly mercenaries serving in other countries, to describe their longing for the mountains. But homesickness wasn’t invented in the 1700s, it’s been seen throughout history for as long as humans have been leaving home. It can be seen in Homer’s “The Odyssey” as the whole story is about homesick Odysseus longing to get back to his wife and the island of Ithaca. It can be found in the bible, especially in Psalm 137, as the Jewish people yearn for their homeland. Homesickness can also be seen in college students studying abroad 3,000 miles away from home.
Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity, seeing new places, experiencing new things, it’s amazing. And Ireland has been fantastic so far, it’s absolutely beautiful, the people are friendly and the weather has been pretty good. It’s also very different. And sometimes these differences can be overwhelming. So here are a few tips on how to conquer homesickness and make the most out of your adventures abroad.
- Make Friends
Having a good support network is one of the most important things in life, and having a group of friends that can help you while studying abroad is essential. Having a travel buddy or a study buddy or even a “hey I’m feeling sad can we just watch a movie and eat ice cream” buddy, can make the difference during your time abroad. There are eight people in my program, which has been helpful. It meant I got to come to Ireland with a great group of friends already. Of course, making new friends is important too. Talk to people in class, get involved in clubs and activities. People who can help you learn more about this new place.
2. Stay Busy
One of the most important things you can do when facing homesickness is to stay busy. I spend my summers working at a Girl Scout camp and I can assure you that it’s the less busy times of day when most kids will start crying and getting homesick. Anytime when you just have a moment to just sit and think gives your mind a chance to start thinking about all the things that you miss. So staying busy and active is key. Luckily while studying abroad there is so much to do, in addition to class and studying, there’s a whole world out there to see. So explore, travel, learn and keep that mind distracted.
3. Keep A Journal
Like I mentioned previously, your mind can be your greatest enemy. Thoughts like “that’s weird” and “I don’t like it” can distort your perception and ruin what can be an incredible opportunity. Thinking positive all the time can be difficult, but taking some time at the end of each day to write in a journal can help you process any negative feelings of the day as well as emphasize any positive ones. A journal is also a great keepsake to remember everything by. I’ve been keeping a journal and I know years from now I’ll be so grateful for writing down everything I’ve been doing and documenting all the adventures.
4. Do Things You Enjoy
Even when you’re not studying abroad, taking some time to decompress is important to stay a functioning human being. When you’re in a new place, surrounded by new people and a new culture, it can be overwhelming. And just because you’re in a new place doesn’t mean you have to become a new person. It’s ok to do something that you would normally do at home. Whether it’s taking the time to watch your favorite TV show, or eat some food from home. You don’t have to be trying new things all the time. There was one day during my first week in Ireland where I just could not figure out the buses. I got so frustrated that I decided to just take a cab to the nearest Dominos and treat myself to some greasy, American, pizza and then go home and watch Netflix. And I know I have never been so excited to eat a pb+j than after finding out finding good peanut butter is nearly impossible in Ireland!
5. Keep In Touch
Calling home every once in a while can be a great way to ease any stress. But be careful, staying in contact too much can lead to you becoming even more homesick. Family and friends are always a great way to get support and encouragement. However speaking to them too often can lead you to notice how much you miss them, make you feel like you’re missing out on things at home and forget how incredible a study abroad adventure can be. Calling home to catch up and tell your loved ones all about your day sounds great, but if you call too often you’ll run out of stories to tell. I’ve been calling home twice a week, once to talk to my parents and once to talk to my sister and I think it’s been a pretty good system so far. I feel like I talk to them often enough to hear what’s going on at home and to tell them how I’m doing, but I don’t feel like I’m running out of things to say. I always look forward to our calls but I don’t spend all my time thinking about when I get to call home next.
Homesickness can be rough, it can put a damper on what should be an incredible adventure. I hope these tips can help you conquer that homesickness and get back to exploring and learning about the world around you.