What to do when you feel homesick abroad
Moving abroad is a dream for many, but the process is not an easy journey. It can be stressful, chaotic, and yet exciting! Once the chaos and excitement die down after you get to your new home, a different feeling starts to emerge: homesickness.
Feeling homesick abroad is a natural part of the moving abroad process and one that hits harder for some people than others. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to cope with feeling homesick abroad.
What it means to feel homesick abroad
Homesickness is anxiety or distress you feel when you are separated from your home. It is a feeling of longing for your familiar place that can cause other reactions like anxiety, depression, and loss of appetite. You can get this sinking feeling whether you are alone or with others. Homesickness arises because you left something comfortable and safe and now your new environment is unpredictable, unfamiliar, and away from loved ones.
Leaving your comfort zone is a shock both physically and mentally. Being in an unfamiliar place causes our natural instincts to kick in and increases the desire to return to something familiar. This natural instinct can be very overwhelming or mild depending on multiple factors, including the differences between your familiar place and your new home.
Intensity of homesickness ranges from person to person and feeling homesick is perfectly natural. Coping with a completely new environment with new people and maybe even a new language, is far from simple.
Symptoms of feeling homesick while living abroad
You may have felt similar symptoms if you moved away from home to go to school in another city or state; symptoms of homesickness can include, but aren’t limited to, sadness for seemingly no reason, disinterest in social activities, feeling lonely, low motivation, desire to return home, and overall anxiety about being away from loved ones. When we place ourselves in a new place everything is unfamiliar and we don’t exactly know how to navigate it. Unfamiliarity naturally scares us as people and can be very overwhelming.
Feeling unlike like yourself? If your big life change has got you feeling all kinds of strange, you’re not alone. Uprooting your world and getting settled in another country takes time, so if you’re feeling a bit down discover ways to cope with the emotional toll that living abroad can take.
11 ways to cope with feeling homesick abroad
Feeling homesick abroad is very common and not something that should hinder your experience abroad. Everyone experiences it on different levels and handles it differently. Check out these tips to help you cope with feeling homesick abroad. Hopefully you’ll be on your way to feeling more at peace where you are.
1. Regularly communicate with family and friends back home
A big part of your home life is the people, so make sure to keep in touch with your close family and friends. This can be very comforting! Try to set a schedule that works for you, your friends, and family members to communicate regularly.
Depending on your new time zone, it can be hard to coordinate so try to organize calls (with and without video) well in advance to catch up so you both feel a part of each other’s lives even though you may be an ocean away.
2. Connect with others and make new friends in your new home
Thanks to technology, we are able to communicate easily and quickly. There are tons of opportunities to meet other like minded people in your new place like Facebook groups and Meetup.com. Facebook has tons of expat groups where you can connect with others; the Meetup is ideal for going to events and finding like-minded individuals in your city. Chances are you will eventually meet people who will help make your life abroad feel like home!
3. Enjoy a social media detox once in a while (especially at the beginning)
Try not to be too concerned with what’s going on at home all the time and take advantage of your new surroundings. Too much social media time may only increase anxious feelings. That FOMO (fear of missing out) can be harmful if you’re always wondering what’s happening at home rather than where you are.
Take a large step away from social media and focus on what you can discover and who you can connect with around you. It is so important to connect with new people and explore your new city or town especially in the first few months.
4. Bring some products from your home country to your new country
Many products (especially from the U.S.) can be difficult or next to impossible to find in your new country. Not to mention, they’re also expensive. But there are just some small things that bring us comfort and we’d prefer not to live without. Maybe it’s a candle, food, or just a brand that you like. Bring a few of those items with you and use them when you are feeling overwhelmed.
5. Make your new space comforting and homey
Feeling comfortable in your apartment or home abroad is an essential in working through homesickness. Often when renting abroad, apartments will come furnished and it’s not rare for them to have outdated or unattractive decor that is not you. Take the time to make the space your own with your personal touch so that when you come home at the end of that day you feel satisfied and relaxed.
6. Continue your favorite hobbies
Just because you move abroad doesn’t mean that you should stop doing the things you love to do. You can always find time in your schedule and somewhere to continue your hobbies. Love sports? Want to take a painting or sewing class? Facebook groups and Meetup.com are great resources to find exactly what you’re looking for. The familiarity of continuing something you love will bring a lot of joy and help you make friends along the way.
7. Pick up a new hobby
Along with continuing current hobbies, pick up a new one! Learn a new language or skill and make it something fun and a little challenging. Not only is learning something new fun, you’ll learn so much about yourself in the process.
Picking up a new hobby can bring about lots of positive feelings and you can incorporate it into your new routine abroad. Speaking of routines….
8. Create a routine
Routine routine routine! Create a routine for yourself in your new life. It doesn’t have to be incredibly detailed but a loose schedule can help you maintain some stability. Try to incorporate your hobbies weekly, if not daily, and other things you love as well. For example:
- Monday: Language class
- Tuesday: Play *insert sport*, cooking class
- Wednesday: Language class
- Thursday: Play *insert sport*, drinks with a friend
- Friday: walking tour, yoga class
If you are working part-time or full-time it’s still important to maintain a routine outside of working hours.
9. Explore your new city and country
Think about the reasons why you moved to the place you find yourself in. Was it the landscape? The people? The nightlife? Continuously explore everything your new city has to offer from restaurants to social activities and adventures. There will be so much to see and experience so take advantage of living in the moment here!
10. Get professional help
Sometimes we just need to talk to someone to help us work through our feelings and issues. If you feel homesick often, despite incorporating hobbies, exploring, and spending time with new people, you may find speaking with a therapist helpful. Therapy is a great way to work through homesickness and relieve overall stress.
There are many in-person therapy options as well as great online options if you are unable to travel or feel nervous about in-person therapy. If you need a recommendation for an online option, BetterHelp is a great online therapy platform that offers individualized counseling sessions with qualified professionals that are accessible, affordable, and usually assigned to you within 24 to 48 hours.
Click here to get 10% off your first month of BetterHelp!
11. Remind yourself why you chose to move abroad in the first place
You probably moved abroad for several reasons; to fulfill a dream, the opportunity to travel more, to gain international experience (both personally and professionally), or maybe a new job. Whatever your reason, it must have been a good one to pick up your life and move elsewhere.
Remind yourself of why you did it in the first place. Write it down, recite it, make a mood board of it, whatever fits you best. You have great opportunities in front of you in your new home, don’t forget it.