Homesickness. It is probably something everyone has to deal with at some point in their life, and it´s awful. However, despite what it might feel like, homesickness might not necessarily be about you missing ‘home´ but more about you missing ´a home´, in the sense that you might miss the feeling of a more stable, reliable and familiar situation. The lack of a familiar situation can make you nostalgic for the things you had before, even if you never even liked them at the time (in the academic world, this is called the Nutella Syndrom). This can result in you trying to hold on to the past, which will make the homesick, ending up in a vicious cycle. However, you can break this cycle by following these two steps.
Step 1: Make Peace With Your Old Home
It´s very normal to feel homesick from time to time, but it´s a horrible feeling that ultimately will make all parts of your life much harder. After all, your home what you have known for a big part of your life. The challenge is to find a balance in cherishing the memories, without this interfering with your new life.
Now, in order to get rid of your homesickness you have to make peace with the fact that the place you are longing for is not a reality at the moment, and that doesn´t have to be a bad thing. Things change all the time, and so you have to change. Try not to think in the past but in the future.
A very important part of not trying to live in the past is to make sure the way you are keeping contact with your friends and family back home isn´t taking over your life. If you want to know what the best way to keep contact with home is, click here to read the article ‘How To Keep Contact With Your Friends And Family While Being Abroad´.
One thing that can help is to write yourself a letter about all the things you didn´t like about home. You can write this letter beforehand, in a moment you are angry or upset, but if you are suffering from homesickness right now it might be a better idea to write a list of things you didn´t like. This can be anything from the weather to family arguments or a bad valuta. This is not necessarily to demonize your old home, but for you to find a balance. When feeling homesick people often romanticize and idealize their old home, and ´ ideal´ places could never live up to reality.
Step 2: Create A New Home
This might seem like an obvious one, but getting a new home will most likely take care of the nostalgic feelings you are having about your old home. The best way to do this is to create a routine that you follow. Decorate your place in a way that makes it feel like home. Of course, this is easier said that done, but here are a few things you can think of.
Create A Routine
Try to do certain things at the same time. That means waking up at the same time, taking a morning walk around the same park, getting coffee at the same place, giving a dollar to the same homeless man in front of the supermarket. Creating a new routine will help you find your place when everything is new and will help create a more stable environment.
Part of this might be to decorate your house, and make it into a home! Hang pictures on the wall (preferably pictures that aren´t of your friends and family back home). Try to make it a nice environment that will make you feel comfortable and more at ease.
Learn The Language
When you move to a different place and don´t know the language, it´s hard to expect to feel at home. Learning the language might be hard, but putting in all the effort in the first months will definitely pay off on the long run!
In order to make more contacts, you could also join a Language Exchange group, or ask people around you to help. You would be surprised how many people are willing to help you learn! But don´t forget, you are the outsider, which means you will have to take most of the initiative. Local people already have a social circle and even if they really did enjoy meeting you, for them there is just not the same amount of pressure to make a new friendship or to make an effort to meet you.
Create New Traditions
One of the things we usually miss about our old homes are the traditions. Therefore, an easy solution to missing the old traditions is to make new ones. Have a dinner night at your place every Friday night. Have a certain spot where you and your friends always meet. Try to incorporate some of the local traditions into your daily life. Even if you don´t get them, or they are not the same as they were at home, new traditions will quickly make you feel more at home and before you know it, you´ll be in some other place feeling homesick for the new memories you have created.
Obviously having a group of friends around you is very beneficial to your well-being, and I don´t think I have to spend any more words explaining why. If you are not sure how to go about making new friends, don´t panic. In the post ‘How To Make Local Friends Abroad´ I explain how you can find yourself some local friends.a
Again, don´t forget, you are the outsider, which means you will have to take most of the initiative. Local people already have a social circle and even if they really did enjoy meeting you, for them there is just not the same amount of pressure to make a new friendship or to make an effort to meet you, which is why it is sometimes hard to make friends abroad. Don´t worry though, realizing why people sometimes don´t seem to care as much as you do is half of the work. Don´t feel afraid to ask someone again if they couldn´t make it the first time.
If you´d rather have international friends, you might want to consider joining an Expat or Exchange student network. Facebook offers a great amount of Facebook group these days, so just try and search for ‘Expats [ insert city or province name ]´ and see what comes up!
Or maybe you could even join a dating site or use an app like Tinder to go on romantic dates. Having some love in your life could make all the pain go away in a second!
Talk about it
It´s okay to let people know you are struggling with this. Maybe not everyone will understand to the same extent what it feels like to miss home, but the majority of people are more than understanding to the subject, and the fact that they know you are going through this can make them more open and helping towards you.
One of the most comforting things in hard times is knowing that you are not alone. Therefore, it might even be more comforting to speak to other foreigners, as they are probably going through the same process. Even if other people don´t seem to show it, you will probably be surprised how many people are feeling just as miserable as you at times (and are really good at hiding it!). Feel no shame, you are not alone!
Keep a journal
I would recommend everyone to do this. Keeping a diary can help you reflect on your emotions. It´s good to read back things you have written years, months or even days before. It can help you remember the things you maybe didn´t like when you were back home, or how much you longed to go abroad. It can also keep track of your progress in the process of feeling at home in your new place. Reading back the first impressions you had, how lost you felt in the first days will make you realize how far you´ve come already.
In the end, time might be the best remedy. Don´t beat yourself up about, because feeling homesick is natural. Just don´t think that going back home will solve that problem.
If you ever feel the need to talk, you can always reach me through the Nationality Unknown Facebook page