For many people, migrating or living overseas for a while is the ultimate goal in their lives. Sometimes we tend to idealise the adventure and forget that like any other rewarding experience, it comes with hard moments that test our courage.
We go through different phases while being away from home. First, we experience a lot of excitement and we long for the day we leave our hometown to embark on a whole new life. We are enthusiastic, we want to try and do everything, we post thousands of selfies and stories on Instagram (it’s always good not to abuse :D ) and we tell the world we are the luckiest person in the world.
Generally, this is the “honeymoon” phase in which we are certain that we’ve made the right decision to move abroad. However, after a couple of months when all the excitement starts to wear off, we become used to people, places, and routines, and somehow our life feels “normal” again. We familiarise ourselves with the language and habits, and we go from elation to boredom. In turn, you might start feeling a bit demotivated, unenthusiastic, isolated and missing your family & friends. Suddenly, one day you find yourself feeling nostalgic and remembering the delicious food your mom used to cook for you, especially if you get sick and there’s no one around to look after you :(.
All of a sudden, this new beautiful city, the one that we dreamt of so many nights, turns into a normal place. This phenomenon is real, it’s called HOMESICKNESS, and people experience it sooner or later, weaker or stronger when they move to another country, state, city or even suburb! If you are feeling like this, don’t worry. You’re not alone and most importantly: IT’S TEMPORARY.
We’ve prepared these 8 tips that will prevent homesickness from stopping you from achieving your dreams:
1. Stay active (particularly in Winter)
Staying at home is always tempting when you’re feeling down. It is even easier when it’s cold outside and your bed kind of hugs you and warms you up. If you push yourself to do any kind of physical activity, this will not only help you feel healthier but also will actually improve your mood and motivation to do other stuff. Many studies have proven the positive effects that exercising has on our bodies by increasing the production of endorphins, the neurochemicals that make us feel happy!
You don’t have to run a marathon to produce these chemicals in your brain, just by taking the stairs instead of the lift, you’ll start noticing that the effort is worth it. Also, if you live close to a park, having a walk is a great idea and will refresh your mood.
Another great way to keep on moving is by walking or riding a bike instead of taking the bus, train, or tram! Sometimes the rain could make it difficult but if you see some sunshine, get up, go out and walk!
Most international students live on a budget so it’s hard to afford a gym membership, but how about dancing all night when you hit the nightclub? These are great options and the only thing stopping you from doing them is your own mind.
2. Attend events or meetings (even if you don’t feel like it)
When we live in a new country, we need to rebuild our social circle. Yes, humans are social animals and we NEED people, no matter how shy or introverted we are. If you refuse to meet new people you’ll isolate yourself and that will only deepen your homesickness.
If you decide you need to create a new network, it’s a good idea to start by attending social events such as language exchange meetings. In Melbourne there are heaps of events every day, two of the most popular are Mundo Lingo and Lingos, have a look at their Facebook pages and just click GOING on their events.
Sometimes we feel as though we have nothing to say, or maybe we’re not confident yet about the language we are learning, but whenever you feel like this, remember that EVERYONE feels like that. Talking about this could be a conversation topic itself, and it will help you discover that many other students feel exactly like you!
Check out our post about meeting new people here.
3. Find a new hobby or brush up your skills
Maybe you love photography and you were always saying: I wish I could travel more to take more photos. Well, this is your chance. Everywhere you go, there’s something new to see, try and do. In my case, I love reading but I never had time to do so while living in my hometown. In Melbourne, using the public transport made me realise that there are no excuses not to read here. If my commute is 20 minutes, it means that I can use that time to put away my phone and start reading again.
Another way to discover new hobbies is by reading blogs and watching videos on youtube. Once, I was just checking my Instagram and saw this ad about a knitting class. I said “mmm, I thought knitting was for old people, but… winter is coming and I could knit a cool scarf. Why not”. So, I booked the class, had heaps of fun, met new people and now I love knitting regularly.
Maybe learning a language is your hobby and the reason why you traveled in the first place. If so, immerse yourself in the culture and practice as much as you can, you'll have a reason to be motivated and give more meaning to your experience overseas.
4. Keep close to your home country
Sometimes reading about our country makes us feel as if we’re still in the loop. Even though part of living overseas means adopting a new culture, it doesn’t mean that you have to forget about yours. Reading news in your language, commenting on stories with your friends and explaining your traditions to new people will make you feel connected to your roots and proud of what you’re doing.
Joining Facebook groups hosted by people from your country in the city you are living in, reading their experiences, attending their events will make you feel a little bit closer to home.
5 If you feel sad, let if flow
Being sad is not a negative feeling. Contrary to popular belief, sadness is actually a source of personal growth if you are willing to look at the sunny side of it. If you happen to be inexplicably sad, ask yourself why? Answer the question and ask yourself why? Again. Repeat this process until you get closer to the root of this feeling. Sometimes we need professional help to handle our emotions and this is totally fine. Nobody was born with a manual on how to operate human emotions and being away from home generally comes with unexplored feelings too.
Psychologists agree that letting emotions flow, especially negative ones, is the key to overcoming them. As long as you realise that what’s happening is normal, you’ll get through it. If you feel that your homesickness may be more like depression, you should visit a General Practitioner who will help you identify and clinically diagnose it in order to receive adequate treatment.
Never be afraid to ask for help, sometimes we think that by suppressing our emotions they’ll magically disappear, but if you put your emotions under the rug, they might worsen over time.
6. Establish a personal routine
Uncertainty increases anxiety. Not knowing what we have to do on a day or dealing with too many unexpected situations drains our energy. Planning your day will help you optimise your time and be more productive. You’ll be able to foresee problems before you have them, attend more events, live in a clean and tidy place, have time to study, and more.
Creating routines is a great way to start building your new life by acquiring good habits and avoiding procrastination. In the short term, you’ll feel more confident and in control of your life, which is crucial if you want to stay away from homesickness.
7. Travel and travel again
You’re finally on the other side of the ocean (especially if you moved to Australia). New places are waiting for you to discover them. It doesn’t matter if you embark on a long journey or a weekend escapade, TRAVEL. If you are in a school like Discover English in Melbourne, there are so many affordable activities to discover the city and its surroundings (check out the calendar here). Whether you are in Australia, Europe, Asia or America, traveling should be part of your goals.
Not to mention the uncountable benefits that traveling brings to anybody’s life, so living in a new country is the perfect excuse to do it even more often. Some people never leave their home country, not even their home town so remind yourself how privileged you are every time you jump onto the plane or bus to start a new adventure.
8. Don’t forget, it’s only temporary
You never know, sometimes our small trips change our lives forever and we end up living in a country that we never even included in the bucket list. But for most people, living abroad is a temporary experience and you HAVE to make the most of it. If you have a return flight, get yourself a calendar and visualise how many days you have left so you are aware of how brief or long the adventure will be.
Don’t give in to the temptation of regretting or seeing the negative side of it, that’s too easy. Making the effort and living life to the fullest will not only change your temporary experience but also your life forever!
Enjoy the ride!
And now, vocabulary!!!
Long for (idioms): To desire greatly or yearn for something, especially something that is difficult or impossible to obtain
Wear off (phrasal verb): lose effectiveness or intensity.
Elation (noun): great happiness and exhilaration.
Look after (phrasal verb): take care of.
All of a sudden (idiom): occurring without transition from the previous form, state, etc.
Tempting (adj) enticing or inviting.
To notice (verb): to pay attention to or take notice of:
To isolate (verb): to set or place apart; detach or separate so as to be alone.
Commute (noun): a trip made by commuting:
Knitting (noun): the act of forming a fabric by looping a continuous yarn.
In the loop (idiom): aware (or unaware) of information known to only a privileged few.
Contrary to popular belief (idiom): something that you say before you make a statement that is the opposite of what most people believe
To suppress (verb): forcibly put an end to.
To put something under the rug (idiom): to hide a problem or try to keep it secret instead of dealing with it
To foresee (verb): to know about something before it happens:
Affordable (adj): not expensive:
Bucket list (noun): a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime.
To give in (phrasal verb): cease fighting or arguing; admit defeat.