From Missing Home to Feeling at Home: Understanding Homesickness and How to Overcome It
As an international student, wherever you are studying, wherever you have come from, you are susceptible to a lot of illness and sickness in your new environment. Different diseases, medication, and healthcare await you at your new home. As such your immune system is not yet equipped for it. I dealt with this firsthand in my first few weeks, having caught the flu and deal with it without the safety net of my mum to take care of me.
The beginning of my homesickness
This, for me, was when I also found out about the biggest sickness that plagues all international students, no matter how reinforced your immune system might be. Homesickness. This is a term we’ve all heard, most of us have felt, and none of us is immune to. Some of you might be fleeing a home no longer safe, one where you don’t feel at place, or perhaps you are fortunate enough to have a loving home in a peaceful environment that you are simply taking a break from. I am willing to bet money that there is a presence of something, someone, or someplace that is now lacking.
My family's visit that helped with my homesickness: My mum, 2 younger brothers, my friend Lewis, and me at the Malahat SkyWalk on Vancouver Island (left); the Malahat SkyWalk (center); the RV — here in Olympic National Park, Washington — where we all stayed during our spring break trip. (right)
Feeling the absence
This presence comes in all forms, and for the most part, it reminds you of its absence when you least expect it. Perhaps an ice cream shop in your local neighborhood? Your loving family? Your brother you thought irritated you has now grown silent in your travels, leaving an empty space in his wake. I was struck with some of this sickness when I sat down to watch a show. I watched it with my brother a million times. Always joking about the characters, making bets on what would happen next. Suddenly I turn to him to crack a joke at the character and remembered this time, he was halfway around the world.
Smiley family at Malahat on Vancouver Island. (left) My friend Lewis and I pulling ourselves up — using science — at Science World in Vancouver. (right)
Feeling the good fortune
This homesickness is a daunting word but with it comes a lot of realizations about the fortune you have had to feel it. Although studying abroad is hard sometimes it gifts you with a new perspective from which you view your home. The bouts I have when missing my family, my friends, my dogs, and my home only reminds me of how lucky I am to have these things to come back to.
We all experience it
I have witnessed some students struggle with homesickness more than others. Some try to ignore it while some let it consume them, blinding them to the extraordinary opportunity before them of studying in a new country with a new culture. I am writing this blog in order to shed light on the reality of how being so far from home can affect you. Furthermore, I am writing this blog to remind myself of how grateful I am to have these things to miss. Lastly, I am writing this blog to describe how easy it is to remedy the homesickness you might be feeling or might one day feel.
Two rock towers on Vancouver Island: a fun size one, then one at the back big enough to crush a person. (left) The next boyband to hit the charts. (right)
Call those people you miss. If not weekly, then daily. If not now, then tomorrow. Get that dog on FaceTime with you and give your annoying brother a prank call. Staying in touch with the people we miss is easier than ever and so when you are studying halfway across the world just keep in mind, when stuck with a bout of homesickness, that all those people, places, and things you are missing are a phone call away and just an online-game-of-Uno out of reach.
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