How to cope with Homesickness while Abroad

Dear future study abroad participant,

Accept this now: you will get homesick, at one point or another. You may think you’re brave and everything for leaving your family for such a long period of time, but when you miss them, the emotions hit you all at once and they hit you hard. You’ll begin to think about all of the big birthdays, graduations, and family or friendship milestones you’re missing. At this point, you’ll have to make a decision to either continue to dig yourself in an emotionally draining hole or consume yourself with things to do.

I got super homesick in April, right after our Easter break. This was around the time that half of my family members were celebrating their birthdays. I mean, I missed my younger brother Israel’s big 10th, 😦 (big deal, Nigerian thing). It was also around the same time that classes here were getting super busy and stressful. I never considered how hard it would be to readjust after we had almost a full month of school and then another full month out of school. To top that, the thoughts of not being able to go home and just be around family (which usually happens during breaks) lingered in my mind all the time.

So, how do you cope with the emotions and find a new balance in your temporary environment? You get out. You put yourself out there and get involved in your school or community.The week after I had experienced all the homesick feelings, I decided I didn’t want to spend any more time feeling or thinking about going home, something that I knew would happen eventually. I found a local RCCG church (my home branch) on the street that’s adjacent to the one I live shortly after the break. I thought it was kind of silly that I’d never noticed the place before, but I was told they didn’t have the flyers up for awhile. So I immediately got involved in the church, attending the bible study and sharing my contact information with the pastor and some of the women I grew close too. It was nice that they checked on me throughout the week! I’ve attended the same church ever since.

The week after I had experienced all the homesick feelings, I decided I didn’t want to spend any more time feeling or thinking about going home, something that I knew would happen eventually. I found a local RCCG church (my home branch) on the street that’s adjacent to the one I live shortly after the break. I thought it was kind of silly that I’d never noticed the place before, but I was told they didn’t have the flyers up for awhile. So I immediately got involved in the church, attending the bible study and sharing my contact information with the pastor and some of the women I grew close too. It was nice that they checked on me throughout the week! I’ve attended the same church ever since.

Besides finding a church I could call my new home church, I also did some research on volunteering opportunities for English speakers in Vienna. There was a variety of things that popped up ranging from marathon races to hospice care and refugee centers.Under the company Caritas, I found a refugee center about 5 minutes from my apartment and spent some time there working in the kitchen and food pantry. This gave me time to set aside my own thoughts and think about the needs of others.

I found those two things to be extremely helpful, and I also started spending more time with my friend Akilah, who’s also from America. We were experiencing most of the same feelings and having someone to talk to and acknowledging those feelings was the best thing to do.

To summarize, I’d say you should always realize that studying abroad is temporary and not permanent, and I’d also advise you to get involved in your community when you’re feeling homesick. You also have to realize that there are other students who are thousands of miles away from home experiencing the same feelings you’re experiencing and you shouldn’t be afraid to share those feelings with them.

P.S, calling home more often will only make matters worse.

Sincerly,

No longer homesick study abroad participant 🙂

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