Homesickness is a natural part of moving to a new country. It can take some time to adjust to a different culture and you may find yourself missing the familiarities of home. Many international students feel this way as they settle into their new academic environment and life abroad – especially now as it’s a little more difficult to connect with other people in person. These feelings are completely normal, but they shouldn’t be debilitating.
Here are 10 tips to beat homesickness, but remember, professional help is available and don’t forget to ask for support if you need it.
Acknowledge your feelings
The first step in overcoming homesickness is to acknowledge what you’re feeling. And, by reading this article, you’re doing just that! Accept that your feelings are normal, real and valid. Take some time to write down your feelings onto a piece of paper or into a journal. This strategy is a therapeutic way to understand and process what you feel.
Connect with other international students
Other international students are in the same situation as you and they may even be feeling the same way! Talking to people who understand and share your feelings can help you feel less alone. Right now, it might be a little trickier to connect with fellow international students in person – but it’s not impossible. Reach out to your education provider to find out how they might be connecting students. There are also plenty of online forums, Facebook groups and virtual communities you can join. Plus, as most education providers move to online education during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with your classmates.
Build a new community
Making friends with local students is one of the best ways to feel a stronger sense of belonging in your new country. Meetup has plenty of fantastic online events that still let you meet locals in your city, albeit from the comfort of your home. Think Friday evening social catchups and virtual tours of your city’s best hotspots. These are great opportunities not only to explore your new city, but to meet new people.
Once things reopen, you can also check out your university’s event calendar and join some societies or clubs, to find people with the same interests as you. You can also check out Medibank’s Free and Active program, to find fun and free social activities that will help you to connect with your local community. Integrating into your local community will help make your new country feel more like home.
Celebrate and share your culture
Embracing all the experiences that moving overseas offers may leave you feeling a bit disconnected from your culture. But enjoying a different culture doesn’t mean you need to leave your own behind. Introduce your new friends to your culture by inviting them to celebrate significant days and festivals with you, or organise a virtual dinner where you cook your favourite meals from back home and share them over a video chatting platform. Make sure you join your friends in celebrating their home countries and cultures too.
Fill your schedule
You’re more likely to feel homesick when you’re sitting at home with nothing to do. Instead, stay busy to take your mind off how you’re feeling. Create a daily routine and fill up your spare time with activities that you enjoy doing.
You might like to work on your existing hobbies or to pick up some new ones, socialise with your friends online, or fit in some healthy habits such as exercise, to increase your endorphins! The Medibank Live Better at Home program is free, and has daily activities designed to help you eat, move and feel better, while at home.
Explore your new home
At first, your new country may feel foreign and strange. Going out and exploring might not be feasible right now, but it’s still entirely possible to check out your new city virtually. There are plenty of fantastic virtual tours that will take you through Aussie landmarks, cultural institutions and some of Australia’s most beautiful outdoor locations, as well as online concerts and wildlife experiences. Getting familiar with your new home will help you feel a little more settled, then when you can get back outside, you’ll already feel like you know the place!
Work on positive thinking
It’s easier to think about the negative aspects of a situation when you’re going through a challenging time. But a small amount of positive thinking every day can really help you change your mindset. Try to find a few things you’re grateful for every day, and write them down to read back on when you aren’t feeling well. Watch your list of positive thoughts grow every week until these negative thoughts become dwarfed by the positive! Meditation is also a great way to stay positive and Medibank have developed a guided meditation based on homesickness that can help you to work through your feelings.
Create a space you love
Your bedroom should make you feel happy, safe and at home. If your room doesn’t feel like your own yet, then consider decorating your room. Fill your room with the things that you love. Print off some photos of your family and friends, string up some fairy lights and treat yourself to a cosy blanket or bedspread. Remember that your bedroom is where you retreat to after a long day and you should enjoy being in it!
Communicate with friends and family back home
There’s a strange myth that speaking to people back home will make you feel more homesick. But this just isn’t true. Speaking to your friends and family will be a great source of comfort to you during your time abroad. Schedule regular video calls to feel closer to them, and use Apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to maintain your connection. Catch up on everything that’s happening at home and keep them updated on your life overseas too!
Reach out for professional help
It’s completely normal to feel homesick but you shouldn’t struggle in silence. Make sure you reach out for professional help if you need it. Speak to your educational institution’s student services staff and they will point you in the right direction. Counsellors are trained to deal with your very situation, and they will help you overcome these unwanted feelings. Organisations such as Beyond Blue, offer 24/7 support as well as Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing and Support services.
If you’re a student with Medibank OSHC, you can call the 24/7 Student Health and Support Line on 1800 887 283 at any time, day or night. They’ll offer you advice and over the phone counselling as part of your cover. They also have an interpreter service, so you can speak to someone in your own language. Remember, you aren’t alone in this!