Studying abroad is one of the best experiences you can have in your life. Of course, nothing is perfect and, although this may not be the case for everyone, after the honeymoon period of the first few weeks has come to an end, the adrenaline will come down, the routine will begin, and you might generally feel down. At this point many might find themselves asking a lot of questions about the meaning of this experience. What can students do to avoid, or at least not become overwhelmed by, that feeling?
The first tip is to make new friends and spend time with them. As an international student, making friends with other international students, whether inside or outside your particular program, comes naturally. Talking with your new friends about homesickness will make you feel better, and sharing your concerns and tips to find new motivation will greatly help you get through any tough periods. Your friends are also here to help you not to think about it at all. Making plans, going out, or just sitting and chatting with them and their similar experiences will bring your mind out of any sad thoughts you may have. The key thing is to not stay alone and thinking about the problems you think will never be solved. Actually, your new friends will quickly become your new family for the semester or year to come, as you probably will be with them most of the time. All of your activities and amazing experiences will be with them. And they will most assuredly be going through the same emotions.
The second tip is possible thanks to modern technologies. Don’t forget that you will be able to talk with your family and friends back home via Skype or over the phone about how you feel. The risk is that they might not understand you, as being abroad for a long period of time is an amazing opportunity and many people would love to be in your shoes. Of course, feeling sad is totally normal, and your family should also understand that you miss them. They will obviously miss you too!
However, it is good to avoid talking with people back home every day as it will only fuel the desire to go home and prevent you from enjoying where you are. Talking with them for a few hours once a week is a good equilibrium for you to live your own life in a new country and to not always think about your life back home, while also keeping in contact with your family and friends. It is also something you can look forward to if you set a precise day and time for the conversation with your family. You can by all means write messages every day, but try to enjoy your new life by not always thinking about home.
If you feel bad because of the classes you take, don’t forget that you are an exchange student and that grades don’t count as much as at your home institution. Being abroad gives you the chance to speak a new language, see a different educational system, and experience a new and exciting culture so don’t get too hung up on your grades. Besides, grading systems can vary wildly from country to country and some fluctuation to what you are used to back home is to be expected. Your experience abroad is a time for you to relax a little, travel, and have fun. If your classes are too difficult, ask your classmates for help, but don’t make it the focal point of your semester or your year. Time passes by very fast when you study abroad, so don’t waste time being sad over the little things.
In extreme cases of depression, however, some people just don’t feel well in their new country and are completely depressed. Thankfully, this situation is rare, but if it happens to you, go see a school counselor or psychologist that can help you to get through this. Your home institution should also be there for you in case of any unpleasant circumstances. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, either to your friends or to the office at the university which is responsible for international students. Just keep in mind that what you are feeling is normal and that sad feelings will fade away and you will start enjoying your experience more than ever. In the end, you will never want to leave!
The feeling of homesickness depends on the person, on the destination, and individual expectations. If it happens to you, don’t ever let this temporary feeling overwhelm you because it doesn’t last. The semester or the year abroad is an amazing experience and it passes by very fast, so don’t let some negative thoughts ruin your trip!