Studying abroad is one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have. However, it is also a time in your life where you will be met with challenges that you hadn’t otherwise experienced. Don’t get us wrong! You will make new friends, experience delicious cuisines, meet really amazing people along the way which will spark a lot of growth in you as a person. There are countless benefits to studying abroad and you should definitely take advantage! However, when I studied abroad, there were a few trials and tribulations I wish I had been better prepared for. Any new phase in life is going to present some difficulties. It is all about how you handle the new adjustments – the biggest being homesickness. Feeling homesick in a foreign country can bring up feelings of loneliness and feeling lost. Luckily, there are ways to prepare yourself so this will not be an issue that will prevent you from enjoying the experience as a whole.
Make New friends/ “Become A Part Of”
It is imperative to create your own sense of family when you are abroad. Since you will be in a new country by yourself, it is important to connect with people who are going through a similar experience than you. They will be your best friends, your travel partners and your therapists. The relationships I made abroad are some of the strongest bonds I have ever made and I still keep in contact with them to this day. Trust me, you will want someone to accompany you when you are taking weekend trips to other cities (also it is a much safer way to travel).
Also, do not just limit yourself to making friends with people in your study abroad program. Put yourself out there to make friends with people native to the country you are in. The whole point of studying abroad is to expand your horizons. Befriending people from a different culture will introduce you to a whole new world you never thought possible. Also, you will get the first hand experience to the country you are living in that you couldn’t get elsewhere. That brings me to another point is to immerse yourself in the culture! It will help you feel a part of something bigger than yourself. Don’t be afraid to get to know the city you are in. Feelings of loneliness will transpire if you get lost on the streets every time you leave your door. So make sure to really wander around and venture out when you first get there by getting to know the subways, the trains, where certain locations are, etc.
Pack pictures from home
Bringing photographs from home or other mementos will help ease the transition of moving abroad. It will help familiarize your new environment so it will not seem so scary being in a totally strange place. For me, having my favorite blanket for example, helped me automatically feel a sense of comfort even though I was thousands of miles away from my bed. The truth is, for the next chapter of your life, you have to establish a new home, even though it is temporary. You want to make it a place where you feel comfortable and at ease. So make your room homey! Afterall, it is where you will be calling home for a while.
Download Skype/ WhatsApp
Luckily, in today’s world of advanced technology, there are ways to communicate with people all over the world in a matter of seconds. Especially since writing letters from international waters could take a long time going through the postal service. Make sure to download Skype on your laptop before you travel overseas and encourage your friends and families to do the same. Than you can videochat them whenever you are feeling pangs of homesickness and they are at the tips of your fingers. Another great tool is WhatsApp. Once you get a cell phone abroad, you can download this tool to text people from all over the world. This is not an app most people have, so make sure to let your friends and families know about it so they can text you whenever and vice versa. The best part about both of these tools is that they are free! You will save tons of money on making international phones calls.
Don’t overdo it talking to your family and families
Although Skype and WhatsApp can be used whenever, I would suggest putting a cap on how often you speak to your parents or to your best friends. It may seem like instinct to want to talk to them all the time and tell them every little detail, but that can actually be detrimental to your experience. Rather than being present in the moment, your mind will always be elsewhere if you continue to talk to them on a consistent basis. It will also increase your homesickness because they will always be on your mind wondering what they are doing and whatnot. Our suggestion would be to limit the amount you talk to your friends and family so communicating with them doesn’t overwhelm you completely and you can still enjoy your experience as a young adult traveling.
Make sure to keep busy! Idle time is bound to make anyone over think the situation and find the negative. Plus, you don’t want to waste anytime while you are abroad. Although a semester may seem like a long time, days will go by quicker than you think! So take the opportunity and explore the city you are in or cities nearby. Sure, having a day to veg out sometimes is necessary as long as it doesn’t become a regular routine. Another useful suggestion is participating in activities that you enjoyed doing at home. For example, if you are an avid runner or reader, don’t just stop doing that because you are away. Keep doing the things you love to do!
6. Stay centered.
This isn’t permanent and will not last forever. Ground yourself when you are feeling overwhelmed. I did this by taking a few deep breaths and trying to quiet my mind. One of my biggest problems was thinking about what I was missing out back at home. The important thing here is to focus on the positive. You may never get the opportunity to live abroad ever again. Whatever is going on at home will still be there when you get back if it is important enough. This is the time of your life to do this. It always helps to just picture you friends watching TV on the couch back home while you are exploring a new city every weekend!
Being abroad is an opportunity of a lifetime. Looking back at my experience, I wish I had more of a direction before I went abroad. Hopefully these tips will be useful to you and a fear of homesickness won’t prevent you from experiencing this new adventure.
If you are planning on studying abroad for a long period of time and need a passport or an international drivers permit, contact Passport Study Abroad!