Being so far from home, the feeling of homesickness is something inevitable. As much as studying abroad is an exciting and new experience, home is going to be something you will miss. The way you deal with homesickness will determine how you feel and how you tackle your study abroad experience. If homesickness goes unchecked then it could result in shutting yourself and becoming depressed. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to cope with this feeling.
The first step when talking about homesickness is acknowledging that it will happen at some point during your study abroad semester. Knowing that it will happen will prepare you mentally when it does occur. Homesickness can hit unexpectedly, and if you are not ready, it could really dampen your mood. I’m not saying you should always be aware of this, but knowing ways to fight it will ease the stress of homesickness.
The best way to fight homesickness is through communication. Calling, texting, and skyping with your friends and family is a great way to keep this feeling at bay. I encourage to make a schedule and establish times when you and your family and friends are free to talk. Having time set aside beforehand gives you something to look forward to. Of course online communication does not replace face to face interaction but it’s better than nothing. I don’t have a set schedule but I talk to my mom on average twice a week on skype. I usually text my friends and have only skyped with them a couple of times since I left. Seeing a familiar face is comforting even on skype when you’re several thousands of miles away.
Another way of coping with homesickness is to be busy. It sounds stupid, but in reality if you have to think about other things you don’t have time to think about home. Taking an extra course or joining a club at your host university will make you busier. For example I decided to add a culture elective at Mannheim. This was not a class I was planning to take but I decided that it would be good to keep myself busy. I also joined a football team comprised of other exchange students. Another way to keep busy is to travel. During the weekends I frequently travel and I’ve noticed that the weekends I don’t travel feel empty.
Lastly, if you are feeling homesick do something that mimics life back in the U.S. Try to find people from the same country and do an activity you would do back home. I’m sure that a lot of Americans will celebrate thanksgiving when the time comes in a couple of weeks.
Homesickness is a powerful feeling but it can be changed with a good mentality and planning. (picture of the starbucks in Mannheim, rare to find them in Europe)