Homesickness is not exclusive to college students. Any individual making a transition away from home, such as an exchange student or a person moving away for a job can experience it.
How Do I Know Im homesick? The Signs
- You often consider jumping on the next flight back
- You spend a large amount of time crying over photos from home
- You miss the food and meals you get at home
- You miss the culture and language of home
- You feel like you’re going crazy, but the homesickness makes sense
Homesickness is a form of separation anxiety. Symptoms include feeling sad or lonely; yearning for home, family and friends; a lack of motivation to study, make friends or participate in activities. It may also manifest itself in a sense of being overwhelmed by classes and studying. And even though they are similar, there is a significant difference between homesickness and depression. Those experiencing homesickness are relieved of their symptoms when they return home or to a familiar environment. Those with depression do not experience relief in the same situation. Anyone who asks themselves, ‘How do I know I’m homesick?’ should refer to the five points above to evaluate their condition.
It’s very difficult to work or study in a place that is far away from home. For someone who is used to being in the company of close friends and family, being away can be depressing at times. Making new friends, living in a whole new environment and experiencing new things is usually something to be excited about. But when you are alone, it is often easy to start reminiscing about the people and memories you have from home.
Remember that feeling homesick is normal when you are away. But maybe because of circumstances in your life, this is a sacrifice you need to make to achieve your ultimate goal. Whatever the reason, there are some things you can do to reduce the loneliness or homesickness.
- Get a pet. A pet, preferably one that you can play with like a cat or dog, can help you with homesickness. Having someone for company, even an animal, can distract you when you are lonely. You can even talk to your pets if the need hits you. If you have a pet for company and to cuddle, then you will no longer feel so homesick and lonely.
- Go out with new people. Instead of remembering the times when you and your friends went out and had a lot of laughs, why not recreate that moment? Going out for a movie, playing games and having dinner with new friends can be helpful and it will become memorable too down the track. With them, you get to focus on having fun and getting to know them, instead of wallowing in memories about being home with old friends.
- Stroll in the mall. Going to the mall and shopping (yes! retail therapy!) can distract a lot of people from wishing they were back home. Shopping for clothes and using your Blu cigs coupon for discounts and freebies, is one way to counteract that feeling of sadness and loneliness. And if visiting the first mall doesn’t help, then go to a few more!
Remembering happy, or even sad, memories your hometown can be healthy. However, too much of it can depress you or make you feel lonely. The three tips above can help you overcome feelings of loneliness and homesickness. Partying, getting a pet, and shopping are just some of the many things you can do.
When the Culture Shock Gets Too Much
Travellers and people living in another country are bound to experience a little homesickness from time to time. At least one major case of homesickness hits around the time the culture shock gets to be too much.
It’s natural to miss your family, friends and culture when you start a phase of your life in a new place. Sometimes it’s a slow build that starts with missing people, but other times travellers who thought they were completely acclimatised can develop a sudden rash of homesickness. Symptoms are: missing family and friends, seeking out people or symbols from the home country, loneliness, mild depression, an unwillingness to deal with the surrounding culture and maybe even not wanting to leave one’s room.
Some simple strategies you can use when this situation develops are: making that costly phone call or sending emails to friends and family. If you don’t have access to a computer, maybe write a couple of long letters and pour out your frustrations and misery. You can decide later if you want to send them or rewrite them. Be nice and take a little time out for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it. Treat yourself to chocolate or even pizza. Sometimes you may have to make it yourself, so it’s just like one from home.
You should also make sure you have lots of pictures of loved ones to help offset homesickness. If you have an album filled with pictures you can look at whenever you want then you can show off your loved ones to locals and this might help you make friends in foreign places.
Invest in a video phone
Here are some helpful ideas for what to do when you’re homesick, and they might even seem commonsense.
- Think about buying a video phone – it has been my saving grace.
- Set a date for a trip home. It gives you focus and something to look forward to.
- If you are a student, find a part time job that will give you responsibility and less time to think. It could also rebuild any self-confidence often lost through homesickness.
- Volunteer. When we focus on the needs of others, our problems soon evaporate or lose importance. There is always someone worse off than us.
Acknowledge that homesickness is a grieving process and give yourself some time. After that take action and avoid self pity at any cost.
Make it your business to meet new people and become a part of your new community. Join a church or other group and get involved. We all get to choose our attitude, so make sure you pick yourself a helpful one. It can change the way you see the world around you.
Keep in touch with people back home. Write colourful emails, send photos and phone when you can (preferably on your video phone). You will see they miss you too, and that in itself can be a great comfort.
Whatever you do, don’t overdo anything just to avoid homesickness. Try and appreciate the new experiences and know that you won’t be away from home for ever.
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