How to Avoid Homesickness

From SU Madrid student Caitlin Dewey’s blog.

This admission might shock/scandalize my parents and my grandmother, but after more than a month in Spain, I’m not homesick – at all!

It’s not that I don’t miss my family, my friends, cupcakes, the ready availability of peanut butter and day-long Hulu marathons, but for some reason, I just haven’t felt the sting as much as some other people in my program. I think it has a lot to do with being phenomenally excited about Spain … but at the same time, I think living by myself before, and developing some good homesick-strategies then, has really helped, as well.

If you’re going abroad and want to avoid getting homesick, consider the following:

  1. Leave the nest at least once first. The most uncomfortable part of going abroad is jumping into an area and a culture that you’re not familiar with. But if you’ve already had the experience of living or travelling alone, the shock isn’t quite as severe. Living in New York City last summer – by myself for one month, and with my aunt and uncle for a month and a half more – prepared me for everything from the metro commute to the occasional bouts of loneliness.
  2. Leave the long-distance loves at home. From personal observation/eavesdropping, it seems like two-thirds of all homesickness issues are caused by significant others in the States. I know it’s sort of sacrilegious to suggest a pre-study abroad break-up, but at least consider talking to your boyfriend or girlfriend about the changes you’re going to have to make to your relationship while you’re 4000 miles away.
  3. Know when to sign offline. It’s hard to embrace a new lifestyle when you’re constantly bombarded by photos and notes from your old one. If you’re prone to homesickness, try to avoid spending lots of time on Facebook, Twitter, AIM or Skype. Seeing photos from your friends’ parties or talking to your Mom for hours on end won’t make you miss them any less.
  4. Come prepared. Bring stuff from home that will help cheer you up if you need it, like your favorite albums, books or movies, an old scrapbook or a mix CD. It’s a little hokey, but we all know it works – I have no idea where I’d be in life without The O.C. Season 1 and Atlas Sound’s “Walkabout.”
  5. Love the ones you’re with. Forming close relationships with your host family, your roommate and the people in your program is a sure way to make a foreign country feel more like home. Plus, if you are feeling bummed out, you can talk to these people live and in person – as opposed to waiting up with your computer, hoping that one of your friends will eventually sign online.
  6. Keep busy. How could you possibly miss the United States when there are so many thousands of awesome things to do in Spain? Keeping busy, whether with shopping, museum-hopping or volunteering, is guaranteed to keep things in perspective – and to give you a better study abroad experience, overall.
  7. Keep a blog. I didn’t start out with this goal when I set up my blog, but it does seem to have helped me escape the homesickness bug. Blogging is not only a really great way to relieve your frustrations and struggles abroad, but it also lets everybody at home know what you’re up to. And, if you’re a journalism major, you can add it to your resume in the hopes that someone will eventually find it entertaining.

If none of these things work, your best bet is to speak to a teacher or health counselor in your program. Everybody feels homesick sometimes – you’re in a country without CUPCAKES, after all – but remember that it’s all a part of the grand “study abroad” process. By the time you get home, you’ll probably feel homesick for Spain.

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