How to handle your homesickness

3 March 2024

It is very exciting to study abroad, meet new people and gain different experiences. However, this does not mean it is not difficult sometimes. The feeling of time passing by, time that you are not spending with your family and friends back home. The thoughts that you might be missing out on important things, even though you are having other experiences. It is not easy. However, it is a natural part of being an international student. In this article you will find a couple of tips that might help you with that feeling of being homesick!

1. Establish a new support system
This may sound easier said than done, but having a (emotional) support system is highly important for us to feel safe in a new environment. Try to build connections with other students, make new friends, find a job to meet new people, connect with the teachers and get to know your neighbours. Kindness can go a long way. You do not need to become friends with everyone, but find yourself a handful of people you feel you could call or go to if it is needed.

2. Stay connected with your previous home
Just because you are living in a new place does not mean you have to feel disconnected from home. Schedule regular calls with your friends or family to stay in touch. Find things in your new country/city that remind you of home. Certain foods that remind you of your culture, certain smells, trinkets or home decorations. Put on some music from your childhood or home country. These things allow you to feel connected to home.

3. Explore the new local culture around you
It might be fun to learn more about the new culture you find yourself in. Put yourself out there and try activities you have never done before. Enjoy foods from the new country you are in, explore its traditions and values, talk and connect to the locals and figure out what places you enjoy in your new city. Immerse yourself in the local community so you will feel less like an outsider.

4. Take care of yourself
Changing countries and cultures can be very overwhelming and at times draining. It is important that we take good care of ourselves when we move through big life changes. Go to bed around the same time and try to wake up around the same time. This allows your body to be in a steady and healthy rhythm. Learn how to make cooking for yourself easier, nothing is as nourishing as a good home-cooked meal instead of ordering Thuisbezorgd too much. Find a balance between having time for yourself, learning how to be alone, and hanging out with other people.

5. Set realistic experiences
Validate yourself! It is completely natural and human to feel a little out of place once in a while. Homesickness is a big part of moving abroad, even though you made a conscious decision to move (away from home). Give yourself some grace and compassion by allowing yourself to have these feelings. Do not put high expectations on yourself that you will feel adjusted and well after just a few weeks of living somewhere new. It takes time to build a new home and homesickness can always unexpectedly creep back in. And that is okay!

6. Plan visits
In order to feel more connected and in touch with home, you can plan to go back during the holidays or for a quick weekend away, if that is possible. Another fun way is to plan together with your family and/or friends for them to come visit you in your new place!

7. Engage in hobbies or fun activities
The only way you are going to enjoy this transition will be to find activities that are fun for you. Continue the hobbies you used to have back home or put yourself out there and try some new things. This is a great way to spend enjoyable time with yourself, but also to possibly meet new people. Remember that wherever you live, the most important thing is what you do with your time and how present you are while doing it.