How To Thwart Homesickness While Studying Abroad

By Tamiera Vandegrift on May 22, 2016
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Taking advantage of the study abroad programs that your university offers can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Without a doubt, studying abroad should be one of the central staples of your collegiate bucket list. Spending any amount of time outside of the country is both educational and eye-opening.

However, studying abroad can be one of the most difficult experiences you could have as well, and not because of the price tag on travel. Just like shipping off to college in the first place, you’re bound to experience some form of homesickness during the course of your travels.

While you’re hiking through the jungles of Costa Rica or waltzing through the streets of London, you might be tempted to call your best friends back home and catch up on last weekend’s shenanigans. You might want to call mom and dad and ask how your hamster is holding up without you.

However, there are ways to fend off these pesky, homesick feels before they suck the life out of your overseas adventure.

Keep yourself busy.

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Throw yourself into whatever you’re doing — not literally, of course. Don’t waste your time scrolling through Facebook watching your friends live their lives back home. Instead, focus on your activities overseas for the day. Explore the local cities. Shop at the closest market so that you can find a way to commemorate your trip after you leave.

Focus on the assignments and exam material that really deserve your attention. It’s alright to feel homesick every once in a while as you go through your day, but don’t spend copious amounts of time every day feeding the homesickness by constantly contacting friends and family or walking down memory lane through your Instagram pictures.

Always, always, always stay in the present. If you find yourself having enough time to feed your homesickness, you aren’t spending your time abroad to its fullest potential. Keep yourself busy by immersing yourself in a new place, a new culture, and a new lifestyle. You’ll only be studying abroad for a limited amount of time. Enjoy every moment of that time wholeheartedly.

Make friends.

Image via: Nicolette DeSantis, theodysseyonline.com

You know those people sitting around you in the lecture halls, in the libraries, and in the residence halls? There’s a pretty solid chance that they’re feeling the same way that you are. The worst thing you can do to yourself while you’re feeling low is isolating yourself by assuming that you’re the only one that feels that way.

Make conversations with your classmates and make a solid effort to get to know them. You’re all sharing in this amazing experience together, an experience that most college graduates won’t be able to say that they’ve undergone. These students that you’re sharing this journey with will be your family for the next several weeks, or maybe the next couple of months. Don’t spend all of your extra time cooped up in your bedroom alone. Spending too much time alone will feed into homesickness and overall, make for a pretty miserable trip.

There’s a much wider world of new people and new experiences to uncover. Have adventures with your abroad family and be sure to bond with them as much as you possibly can. It will be wonderful to run into your abroad family members again in the future so you can look back on the memories you’ve shared.

Throw away your nostalgia goggles.

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It’s quite possible that the homesickness you’re fighting with is a result of an overly romanticized view of what home is really like. In other words, you’re looking back at your life at home with rose-tinted nostalgia goggles. What are rose-tinted nostalgia goggles? They’re the way that you view a memory that you sorely miss, but that you may not have enjoyed as much when you lived it.

For instance, as a college student, you’re probably looking at your elementary and middle school years as a much simpler, happier time and place to be alive. While you were an elementary or middle school student, more than likely, you weren’t thinking anything special of your circumstances. As a college student, you’re viewing your younger years through rose-tinted nostalgia goggles.

While you’re abroad, take off your rose-tinted nostalgia goggles. Although home may seem so magical and far away, it really hasn’t changed since you’ve left. Your friends are still doing the same old routine. Your roommates are still letting the garbage can and the sink pile up to the sky. Trust me, you aren’t really missing anything.

Everything you’re “missing” is right in front of you. Your friends and your roommates get to stay home and engage in the same lifestyle, sure, but they aren’t studying abroad while they’re doing it. Remove your rose-tinted nostalgia goggles in order to see the amazing opportunity that’s right in front of you.

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Whatever you do, don’t be too hard on yourself. Homesickness is a natural feeling that everyone goes through at some point in their life. However, you shouldn’t let it hinder you from enjoying your time abroad to the fullest extent. By spending less time looking back, you’ll be able to look forward to an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll never forget.

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Tamiera is a junior at Florida State University, studying Editing, Writing & Media and Digital Media Production. When she's not geeking out about movies and puppy videos, she's on her way to a career in screenwriting, while working intensely to finish two novels before graduation. Besides writing, Tamiera is otherwise obsessed with Coldplay, feminism, dystopian novels, and candy corn. She hopes to visit every country on the planet at least once and eventually finish an entire tube of Chapstick.

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