Tuesday, 21 September 2010

25 Ways to Battle Homesickness

Okay, I know I'm not exactly the best person to offer advice on avoiding homesickness. But hey, I'm doing it. There have been tears, there have been tantrums, but hey, I'm still here and I'm coping.

I was inspired by the success of my 20 Things I Miss About Home post, and it made me think about all the other people living away from home and how they're coping, and the people who clearly understood how I felt about being away from home. So last night I started to compile a list of ways I was coping. What I was doing, what I was not doing, how often I was speaking to people at home etc. and decided I would write a follow-up post on ways to cope with homesickness. So this is for everyone who is away from home; whether it's studying thousands of miles away in another country, or just moving out for the first time a few miles from home. I've been homesick at University just 80 miles from home. Obviously some of this advice is more suited to people a long way from home (for example, visitors for me aren't really an option, but visitors and trips back home are definitely ways I combat homesickness when I'm at Birmingham).

1. Stay in touch...
Maybe a little obvious, but maybe not. Keeping the people you love at home in the loop is important for both of you. They want to hear all about what you're up to, and you want to hear the sound of a voice you know and love. Keep your facebook updates regular, send texts, emails, postcards, make skype calls... whatever you need to stay in touch with your friends and family. They'll be missing you, I promise.

2. ...but not too much
Speaking to your family and friends, in particular your parents, every day can makes things even more tough. Speaking to them every day reminds you of every little detail you're missing out on, and there can be a lot of pressure to always have something interesting or fun to report. I try to speak to my parents as often as I can, but I have much more to speak to them about when I haven't heard from them for a few days. Plus it gives them time to get on with their lives and so they have more to tell me.

3. Familiarize yourself with time differences.
For me here in the midwest, my friends and family back home at 6 hours in front. Which means the best time to speak to my family is  between 12 and 4 here. I often find myself feeling kinda lonely in the evenings because it's already bedtime at home, but there's always lots of activity in the morning. I know which times I can and can't speak to my family which makes it easier to plan Skype dates.

4. Use Skype. A lot.
Skype is an amazing invention.To be able to see my parents in my house, sat in my living room, and be able to talk to them is just fantastic. It helps me to feel a lot less homesick. And it's so much better than facebook or the phone. It's the nearest thing to a one-on-one conversation you can have 4000 miles from home.

5.Distract yourself
Again, kinda obvious, but so true. I try to do as much as possible so I don't spend time alone scanning facebook for updates that only upset me. When I feel homesick I just try to do something that doesn't make me think of home.

6. But accept homesickness
Homesickness is a fact of life. Home is where the heart is, right? And home can have many different meanings. When I think "home" I think of my house with my parents, but also my life at uni and my home and family there too. Sometimes I feel that I shouldn't be homesick, but hell, I'm a long way from home right now and I'm doing this amazing independent thing. I've learnt to cut myself some slack when I get sad and stroppy and just want to be at home. The feeling passes after a while.

7. Buy something cute and cuddly for when you're down.
This is Panda.


He is always there for a good cuddle. And I love him. He makes me smile just for being cute and cuddly. Okay, cute, cuddly pandas aren't everyone's thing, but they're my thing. I bought him when I was having a bad day and he reminds me to keep trooping on.

8. Do things you can't do at home
I find this is a great way to battle homesickness. It's hard sometimes when you think about all the fun you have at home and all the greats things you miss doing, but you have to focus on all the fun things you can do here. Even if it's something stupid like cook something you wouldn't eat at home, or watch some TV you wouldn't watch at home, or go somewhere you love in your new place. It reminds you why you've done this in the first place, and helps create new experiences you'll cherish when you've gone.

9. Embrace your new culture
Kinda similar to above but more cultural. Meet people from your new country, talk to them, find out what they like and dislike, talk about how your cultures differ. I'm in a class called Intercultural Communications which allows us to discuss our cultures and experiences and it's really fun. I'm in America, and I love America, so when I get homesick I do American things and I love that I can do that. Why come to a new country if you just want to do everything you can do at home?

10. Take new opportunities
We often get set in our ways at home, and are reluctant to join new clubs or start new hobbies or activities. Moving to a new place offers you a fresh, new start. So far I am absolutely loving writing for the student newspaper and taking advantage of the free gym!!

11. Talk about it
Lauren and I spend a good amount of time talking about things we miss from home. It's nostalgic, but not upsetting. It's fun to talk about our favourite British comedies, or our favourite clubs and places to visit at home. It's great to have someone else that understands what you're going through. If there is someone else you know at the same place, or even not in the same town but in the same country, talk to them. Ask them what they're missing about home.

12. But don't talk too much.
Don't fixate on what you miss about home. Don't allow yourself to get down thinking about everything you love about home. Don't waste your time and opportunities wishing your life away.

13. Do familiar things/ eat familiar foods etc.
This might sound contradictory to previous things that I've said, but believe me, it isn't. I drink several cups of tea every day, just as I do at home. Okay, I have to boil the water in a pan, but still, it's tea. I cook dinner for myself most nights and eat and buy a lot of the same things I do at home. Something about a cup of tea and a piece of toast with peanut butter on just makes me happy. No matter where I am in the world.

14. Make the first move with people
So far, in America at least, people have been pretty friendly. But it can feel very isolating being in a new place without all your friends. Hell, I had the exact same thing starting university. I missed my tight-knit group of friends; I missed always having people to hang around with. I've been lucky that so far people have approached me and said "hey, i'm doing this tonight, wanna come?", but not everyone is like that. If you mention a movie you want to see and someone says "yeah I want to see that too!!", invite them to go see it with you!! The move from acquaintances to friends is the hardest move to make, but after that the move from friends to can't-live'without-each-other is much easier.

15. Say "yes!" to everything
Okay, maybe not everything. I definitely wouldn't say yes to a day of spider hunting or watching operations, but you get the idea. If people invite you to do something, do the best you can to accommodate. And if you can't make it that time, invite them to the next cinema trip or party you go to to return the favour.

16. Make plans for when you come home
I don't advocate wishing your life away, but God I'm already excited about coming home and seeing my friends over Christmas. I love that I already have plans to see them and what we're going to do. We made plans before I'd even left!! Knowing I'm going to see them on a set day and having set plans makes it so much easier.

17. Let people know when you think of them
If you know me at all in real life, you will know that I'm never without my phone in my hand. I'm always texting people funny things that pop into my mind, or taking photos when I see things that remind me of them. It's much harder being away from home because I can't just send texts or photos all the time. So I try to make a mental note to facebook or email them later just to say "hey, I miss you." You might find you're surprised about what, and who you miss when you're away from home.

18. Save time to catch up
This is the one instance where facebook time isn't wasted time. You'll find your messages become much longer and more detailed when you're away from home, and so do the responses. If you quickly glance over a wall-post, comment, message, or email, don't forget to spend some time getting back to people when you get a chance. They'll really appreciate it.

19. Don't get caught up on what you're missing out on
So far, I'm finding this one hard, and I know it's going to be even harder when all my friends go back to university and they have all the fun we did last year. But you have to just squish it to the back of your mind for now. I know, it sucks, but people have to get on with their lives. I can guarantee it won't be the same without you.

20. Be realistic
It's hard being a long way from home. Really hard. You're going to be homesick, you're going to have culture shock, things are going to be different and for a while you're going to hate it. Stupid things will get you upset and you're going to cry. But you're doing an amazingly brave thing here, and you have so many experiences at your feet that other people won't get to experience.

21. Do things that make you happy
Whatever that is. Whether it's stuff that reminds you of home, stuff that is something you never do at home, a hybrid of the two. Have some time every day to just do something that makes you happy. Even at the expense of a little bit of homework. Have some time to get into a good place.

22. Find people who feel the same
Not just people who've come a long way, as I said before, everyone feels homesick when they're away from home. It's nice to find other people who feel the same. You can distract yourselves by doing something fun, or talking about why or what made you homesick. I'm a great believer in talking, and I know it's a big help with my homesickness.

23. Make great memories
You want to look back on this experience and think, wow, that was the best year of my life. Even the least enjoyable of experiences at the time can be great to look back on. Be spontaneous, do new things, meet new people and have an amazing time. Make great memories for your future self.

24. Look forward to the future
Think of all the great things you can do when you get home. For me, I can't wait to see my friends and family and be at home for Christmas. Even when things get hard, I know I'll be with them really soon.

25. Get in touch with me!!
If you're feeling homesick too, drop me an email! My email is girlnextdoorfashion@googlemail.com. If you need someone to talk to, or have similar experiences to me, just let me know and I'll listen!!

Anyone else have any advice for people feeling homesick? Have you moved away yourself? How did you cope with the change? What do you wish you'd done differently?
A lot of my advice is based on my move from my home near Manchester to University at Birmingham. I didn't settle in very well and was very homesick, and made few friends in the first semester. I almost dropped out.
This is advice I wish I could've given to my past self, and for me, a demonstration of how far I've come since I was that girl crying herself to sleep every night.

Charlotte xxx

3 comments:

  1. This is a very helpful list. I'm at home right now, so it's not relevant right this second to me, but I've felt this way in the past and your coping strategies are right on. Especially Skype, that's fantastic.

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  2. All very true. I have a black and white fluffy cat - my saviour! And I'd be lost without my computer. How did people do this before Skype and facebook?
    Kinda stalkerish, I know, but I found you on the British students in America facebook site, and I went to school with Lauren. Small world? lol
    anyway, congrats, another excellent summary of my life right now :)

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  3. We can relate to this feeling completely, as we feel the same being expats. It is partially one of the reasons we created Ananasa.com- "A Home For handmade". An e-commerce site that deals in handmade items from the US, London and the ME. Being far away sometimes is not easy and while owning a piece of handmade may not be the solution it does warm your soul in a different way. Owning a piece of home in your new home with a handmade item made with love can sometimes give you a sense of comfort. Some of the simple pleasures in life that can make us smile...

    ReplyDelete