Four Tips for Addressing the Dreaded “Homesickness”

Four Tips for Addressing the Dreaded “Homesickness”

Besides the typical “Why Sweden?” and “Why did you want to study abroad?” the most frequently asked question that I get often revolves around homesickness. “Don’t you miss home? Your parents? Your friends?”

I think that homesickness is one of the biggest fears exchange students face. I know that even before I left for Sweden I was already freaking out about homesickness. It is scary to be away for so long I will admit, but I also feel that there are a few tricks that I have found really helped me keep the homesickness at bay.

People often say that there are certain stages we go through as exchange students, the first of which being the “Honeymoon Stage”. This normally lasts about a week or 2 and is a very happy and exciting time. Everything is so new, just waiting to be experienced. Unfortunatley, I never really had the honeymoon stages because of my severe jet lag. My first week was probably the hardest for me due to the fact that I barely slept.

One key thing that I feel helped me enormously avoid homesickness was the fact that I did not use my phone at all or talk to anyone from home (even my parents) the first two weeks. By not using my phone I did not have Facebook, Instagram or anything other social media to remind me of home. Also, having no phone forced me to communicate/bond more with my host family as I could no longer spend hours staring at my phone screen. Cutting off all communication with people back home provided me with a “clean break” allowing me to clear my mind and really transition into my new life in Sweden and while it was hard, is something I highly recommend future exchange students to try.

This being said though after talking with a lot of exchange students I think the key thing to remember is that everyone is different. People react to situations in completely different ways. Some people can spend months in the Honeymoon Stage, some (like me) never really experience it, and for some they may spend their whole exchange in this stage. Everyone is different and it impossible to guess how homesickness will effect you until you put yourself in a situtation where one may face it.

Homesickness is a very common and normal thing. It is okay to miss home every once in a while, but that does not mean you should focus on it and let it consume your entire exchange. Here is a list of tips that I think are key to having a happy, healthy, exchange.

  1. Stay Busy! As an exchange student you will probably find yourself with a lot newfound free time on your hands. While it is nice to relax, it is also important to find a routine and keep yourself occupied. The busier you are the less time you have to swell on things. This also helps to make the time go faster and will help you really assimilate into your new culture.
  2. Limit your alone time. While it may be tempting to bottle up your feelings and hid in your room when things get tough – DONT DO IT! This will only make things worse. If you are feeling down or sad, talk to your host family. I know it may be hard at first, but they are there to help you through the good and the bad. Keeping your feelings to your self will only make matters worse.
  3. Try not to contact home that much. I know that it may be hard to not update your BFF from home everyday as to all the new and exciting things you are experiencing, but the more you talk to people from home, the less you are truly assimilating to your new life. Part of the best part about living in a new country is making new friends which is hard if you keep talking to your friends back home. Not to mention that talking to people from home a lot can trigger homesickness.
  4. Have a positive attitude. This one can really be a game changer. It is amazing how much having a positive attitude can impact your day.

So, of course I miss home and my family some times, but that is totally normal! I do not let it run my day to day life. Some days are worse than others, but that is all part of the experience. You must realize that your exchange is going to be full of good days and a few bad days as well. Those bad days though are the ones you will look back on and appriciate the most because in the end you learn so much about yourself and how strong you really are.

Your friends and family will be patiently waiting at home, so do not worry about them! Instead focus on making the best time you possible can while abroad because before you know it you will be back home.

Swedish Word of the Day: “vår” – Spring! In honor that today is the first official day of spring. I am happy to leave the cold winter months behind us, I just wish we could fast forward to summer. I am ready for tan skin, long days, and warm nights!

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