I started living away from home at a young age. I was nine years old and only concerned about what there was to learn in the 4th grade. My father, on the other hand, believed I could learn much more riding horses, studying nature and the stars at sleep away camp. And without a doubt he was right. The confidence and skills I gained at camp all those summers made it easier to become independent, move to university and eventually migrate countries. So as you can imagine, I should probably have the homesickness thing down to a tee, right? In reality, I don’t. However, I do have tips from my own experience living in unfamiliar places and being away from home for long periods of time.
How to deal with it?
It’s important to remember that homesickness is really about getting accustomed to your new environment. Although uncomfortable and sometimes depressing it’s about adjusting during this transitory period. Whether you’re away for a long weekend, moving cities or spending a year abroad here are some tips that have helped me along the way.
1. Do something you love to do at home
I’m a big foodie so have been feeling very nostalgic about all the delicious food back home. Korean, Mexican, Filipino, you name it, Los Angeles has a large food culture holding a variety of authentic cuisines. While I have grown to love Dutch cuisine some things here just don’t taste the same. This is why I love getting in the kitchen and concocting a recipe that reminds of all the comfort dishes I would get regularly in LA. Cooking is a fun and therapeutic activity for myself, but making a dish from home truly makes me feel less homesick.
2. Practice Self-care
For me, this comes in many different forms. The number one thing that helped me cope when I was a 9 year old at camp and even now in my 20’s is journaling. I find it to be a mindful self-care activity that helps in better processing my thoughts, feelings and emotions. It’s interesting to see my entries from when I first arrived in Utrecht to how things are now. I am able to reflect and prioritize on any fears or feelings of distress.
Exercise has also been great in reducing my stress and boosting my overall mood. Although it’s winter here and too cold to go out on my regular jogs, even doing a morning at home workout really sets my mind at ease to better take on the day.
3. Talk about it
Whether this is with friends or family acknowledging the fact I am homesick has been helpful. Instead of resisting this feeling and hiding it away, I openly accepted it and started talking about it. Speaking and connecting with friends and family gives me the support I need. They reassure me that things will be fine and I always find myself more confident to take on a new task. As long as you’re not spending most of your time chatting the day with them and being present in your current environment then it should be okay.
4. Interact with others
I am naturally an introvert and find social interactions to be at the very end of my priority list. The reality of moving abroad is that it requires this. Going on interviews, getting to know colleagues, attending meet-up events or even trying to communicate with your in-laws! However, interacting with others has helped me settle back in much easier. When I first moved to Paris it was nice getting to know the rest of my classmates. We really bonded over the struggle of being in Paris as an international, the bureaucratic process and keeping up in our classes. This truly made the moving process more tolerable knowing that I wasn’t alone.
5. Explore your surroundings
Don’t stay stuck inside the house, step outside house and explore your new environment! Try the local food, visit a museum, head to the neighbourhood park, go window shopping or read a book at a cafe. I remember visiting Utrecht for the first time and discovering so much cool street art. I never left the house without a camera because of this! There are just so many possibilities that will make for memorable experiences and bring you out of your comfort zone.
And finally, recognize that homesickness is quite normal and everyone has experienced it to some extent. It’s okay to cry or feel sad, but the key is to not let it take over! These tips have aided me in effectively combating homesickness and I hope these can help you too.