So you’ve arrived in this exciting place with old, beautiful buildings, new foods, interesting people and numerous opportunities. It is impossible to take it all in at a glance and all you can say is “WOW” and “OMG”.
You reach your accommodation, realise it’s not quite as bad as you imagined (you prepared for the worst) and therefore conclude that everything is going to be awesome. But you didn’t prepare for this: homesickness. Let me tell you more.
A few days later as you settle in a bit….
You start university and begin to find your daily routine in the new city. Then this happens.
In class your phone buzzes, it’s the group chat with your friends from home:
You reply making a joke about how you’ll “be there in 5 minutes” but in reality you feel a bit ‘left out’. It’s nothing anyone has done – you’re just feeling homesick.
The moment you realise there’s no home like home….
The days and weeks continue and even though you’re having the most incredible experience overseas, it becomes very easy to miss pieces of home. There’s always that feeling of never being quite comfortable in the new place, because it’s not what you’re used to.
For me, I exchanged Auckland, New Zealand for Manchester, England and I miss a lot of people at home especially my mum, boyfriend and little sister. Even the little things have a big impact on me – I miss black forest chocolate, mi chai tea and especially the sun. In Auckland I always felt super safe and it’s hard to constantly have to remind myself not to be complacent about my own safety. After all I’m in a city I don’t know very well yet and I’ve had a few unfortunate experiences that have taught me the need to be extra vigilant and take more care.
What is it like to feel homesick?
You can prepare for your trip abroad, studying and cooking your own meals – but it’s nearly impossible to prepare for homesickness. There’s no way to truly know what it feels like until you’ve actually experienced it – and most of the time it doesn’t feel how you would expect it to feel.
I guess it’s an intense feeling of missing everyone and everything back home. You might suddenly start feeling irritated by the smallest thing in the new country – and become nostalgic for everything you left behind. But it’s really different for everyone.
So, what are you supposed to do about this homesickness business?
However, there is a lot that you can do when you’re feeling a bit down and are missing home. Here is a list of the things that have helped and continue to help me when I have ‘not-so-great’ moments.
#1 Chat, text, talk
Social media is unique. It allows you to instantly talk to friends and family even if you’re on the other side of the world. However, now it is probably more important than ever not to be on your phone all day everyday. In my case, things work out well because there’s a 13 hour time difference between New Zealand and England. It means I get to talk to my friends briefly in the morning and evenings. It works out quite well, but see what works for you.
#2 Get out of bed
Honestly if you’re feeling homesick it’s so easy to sit in bed watching Netflix while eating a jar of Nutella with a spoon. While it’s good once in a while, if you’re spending all day everyday doing this you’re just going to end up sad and missing home even more.
You don’t have to go partying every night but at least go into a common room and talk to the people in your hall or go for a nice walk by yourself and take in the scenery.
#3 Remember your studies?
I know, I know – this is the point where you stop reading because you’re thinking “I didn’t come all this way to just be studying all the time!” All I’m saying is if you have some spare time and you’re feeling a little bored then refocusing your attention on your studies might not be a bad idea at all.
Also, if you have exams coming up, last minute cramming is stressful and you don’t want to spoil your overseas experience because of it.
#4 Music Is Life. Music Is Love
Not feeling like accomplishing anything but feeling homesick? Stick in your earplugs and listen to your favourite music. My personal favourites are songs from musicals and songs by Siena (my favourite singer from New Zealand). The ability of music to improve our happiness is something out of this world.
#5 Exercise makes us happier
Walk, run, dance, party, swim – do any exercise that you like best. Endorphin release is a real thing and it’s so important for happiness. Of course, when we’re feeling down it can be so hard to find the motivation. But if you just put on your trainers and start whatever physical activity you like, you’ll see it’s easier than it seems.
#6 Surround yourself with your new friends
I’ll end with something really, really important: when you get to university here, make new friends. This can seem hard at first and, to be honest, it does take effort – on both sides. But you can start with small steps, like speaking to the people sitting next to you before class, having a nice chat with your flatmates or with a friendly group of people at a bar.
Remember, all freshers at university want the same thing: to get on with people and make friends. Show interest in your fellow students. The stories and cultures of people from around the world are endless and they really can change your perspective.
Finally, know that it’s ok to feel homesick
Studying abroad is one of the most amazing experiences you will have – but there will be moments that are less great. But it’s ok to feel homesick, almost everyone goes through it. Even local students studying in a different city to where they grew up.
I hope the tips I’ve shared with you in this post will help. If all else fails: maybe it really is a Nutella and Netflix day. But I’m pretty sure you didn’t travel across the world to sit in your room by yourself. So when you’ve finished Daredevil Season 2, get up and explore, take photos, talk to people, get involved in student life and keep smiling, find yourself, learn how to be you and be happy. Continue learning and growing. You can do this.
Meet me, Briana!
Born in the UK, I moved to New Zealand when I was 18 months old. I came back to the UK as an international student in 2016. I’m reading for a degree in Neuroscience (which includes the study of psychology and physiology) at the University of Manchester.
Anything to do with travelling, dancing and unicycling, I’m down for! I know that everyone will have a different adventure overseas but I love sharing my experiences to help you make the most of yours.