Today I’m going to do something different, I’m going to try to help people instead of always talking about myself. This one is for all the exchange students out there or future exchange students. If you follow my blog, you may know that last month I briefly mentioned my homesickness. It was short and I quickly resumed to talking about what was going on in my life. At that time I didn’t really see the use of talking a lot about it, but I changed my mind. When you live far away from home or are going to, you have to accept that homesickness is going to be a part of your trip and it’s not always going to be easy. So this is for you guys, current exchange students or future ones, here’s an article about homesickness and how to deal with it (I wish I could tell you how to get over it, but I’m afraid only time can answer that question).
First things first, what is homesickness? being homesick means experiencing a longing for one’s home during an absence from it. It’s missing your home and family after being far away from it for a long time. It’s a completely normal reaction and therefore a feeling that anyone who’s ever been far away from their home for a long time has probably experienced. It’s not uncommon, it’s not unknown, it’s something we all know and can look up easily online. So why am I writing an entire article about it you may ask? Because even though it’s normal and common and all that, like all feelings related to sadness and nostalgia, it’s terribly hard to get rid of it (especially when you’re the type of person that when they’re sad, like to make themselves even sadder by listening to sad music or watching a sad movie; AKA me). but when you’re far away from your home as an exchange student it means that you’re currently going through something amazing and are really lucky to be experiencing something like that. So I think we can all agree that when we’re going through something new and exciting, we don’t want to go through it sad. That’s why it’s really important to find a way to deal with homesickness when it knocks on your door.
When you’ve recognised that the sadness you were feeling was homesickness, then you have to understand what it is you miss. A lot would answer; everything (I know, I’ve been there too) but that’s not good enough. Think about what you miss exactly because that’s the first step to making it better. Is it your family and friends? Is it the weather? The food? Or just little random things? When you’ve put a name on what’s making you sad, then you can start to find a way to make it more bearable.
Here’s a list of things that I like to do and why/how they help:
- The first time I got really really homesick was about a month ago, what I then decided to do was to start the 100 happy days challenge but instead of posting it on social media, I’m just writing it in a journal. Also, I made it 175 happy days because when I started it I had exactly 175 days left in the US. Every day I write something that made me happy, this way I am reminded of how blessed I am to be experiencing all of this.
- Keep yourself busy. I know, this is the most talked about and the most logical one, but it’s also the most difficult one when all you want to do is eat your belgian chocolate on your bed while watching ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’. It’s hard to get out there and sometimes you just really don’t want to. But do it, you’ll thank yourself for it later. Try out for the school musical, invite friends, go places. Volunteer because you’ll definitely feel better after having helped people. Discover a new place in you area and take pictures of it. Make a video of your city, go to a coffee shop and read a book, paint, write, do something you like or try something new.
- If you miss the weather, take a warm bath (or a cold shower I guess if you’re somewhere where it’s warm). I went for the warm bath because honestly, I’m tired of the cold. I never thought I’d miss the Belgian weather but when I wake up and have to walk to my bus stop when it’s -25°C outside, I think anyone would understand that I’d rather be in Belgium at that point. So I took a bath because I love baths and because it just feels like a warm, comfortable hug you can stay in for however long you like. Put some calm music on, light a candle, relax and let the warmth overwhelm you. Believe me, this always works.
- If you miss the affection because you come from a place where every time you see someone you know you give them a kiss or a hug, or just the general affection you get from your close friends and family, tell someone about it. Go to a good friend and just hug them. Hug your host family, and don’t worry about it, we’re all human, nobody is going to think you’re weird. You could also buy a stuffed animal. I bought a really soft little stuffed moose. When I can’t fall asleep or get too caught up in my thoughts of missing home, I hug it and fall asleep like that. Never underestimate the power of hugging a stuffed animal, no matter how weird that sounded.
- If you miss your friends or family, Skype with them. But be careful with that because sometimes it can make it worse. Do it in moderation because don’t forget that you also have friends and family where you are now. What can also help is to make plans for when you get back. Organise a trip with your best friend, start thinking about that big party you’re going to throw when you get back, but again, be careful with that.
- If you miss the food, ask your parents to send you a package with some things. This is hard if you’re missing an entire meal but even little things can already make it better. I always ask my parents to send me chocolate or biscuits, and when I get them I always feel a little bit better.
- Now don’t hate me for this one, but exercise and stay healthy. Go for a run, drink lots of water and eat lots of fruit, go to the gym or your school’s weight room and just work out. Believe me I used to hate all these things, but gosh do they help. I’m in a fitness class at school and work out every other day. I can tell you that when I get home after that and lay in my bed, it’s the best feeling ever. This is great for two reasons; it’s a great way to keep your mind of things and being healthy just makes you feel better. Always remember to take care of yourself.
- If you miss the language, there are multiple things you can do. You could Skype, but like I already said be careful with that. You could watch a movie in your native language, but choose a good one. Don’t watch ‘Les Intouchables’ or ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ when you miss french because that’s just going to make you sadder and that’s not what we’re trying to accomplish here. What I found that always helps is stand up comedy. Your country is probably the home of some good stand up comedians, so look them up if you don’t already have a favorite, and just watch their entire show. For me it was Gad Elmaleh for the french and Alex Agnew for the dutch.
- Talk to someone about it. Wether it’d be your host family, your host siblings, your friends or other exchange students, talking about it always help.
So these are the things I do when I get homesick or just a little bit sad in general. The list could be longer, but this article is already getting way too long. So to finish this, here are a few things you should remember;
- everyone is different, what works for me might not work for you. Try things our or find your own remedy.
- sometimes it’s okay to just be sad, as long as you don’t let it overwhelm you. You’re far from home, you miss everything, and that’s okay. You’re sad, so be sad. Accept it, welcome it and understand it because that’s the first step to letting it go. You can watch a sad movie, you can listen to sad music as long as you don’t keep it up for days or even weeks. Remember to live too. Be sad for a bit, and then get up and get out there and be happy again.
- nothing is temporary. This sadness will not last forever and sadly, your trip won’t either. You’ll get back to your home sooner than you think, which is the good news and the bad news.
Hope you liked this and if you’re an exchange student as well, I’d love to hear about the things that you do to battle homesickness, just comment below.