I’m almost done reading Black Girl in Paris. Taking me long enough right? I have A.D.D. when it comes to books. I am currently reading about 5 books right now – 2 of them related to education (because I’m going to start teaching in the fall!). Anywho, there was a passage in the book that struck me, and is the inspiration behind today’s post. Eden, the protagonist is pretty down and a lot of things aren’t going the way she had planned. She says, “I was beginning to wonder what sense it had made to leave the comfort of home,” which is just an eloquent way for her to describe the phenomenon of being homesick.
We’ve all experienced it. But the funny part is we never really start thinking about home unless we have time to think – which means we probably aren’t experiencing our new environment the way we should. Think back to freshman year (for those of you that are out of school). I don’t think I met a single homesick person during Freshman Week! Our parents couldn’t even get us to answer the phone – we were just too excited about meeting new people and seeing how “live” the next orientation week event was going to be. So that leads to my first way to deal with being homesick:
1. Keep Busy! Stay adventurous while abroad. If you are busy planning that trip to the beaches of the French Riviera or anticipating your weekend in the Swiss Alps, it’s kind of hard to let thoughts of home creep in and kill that excitement. Staying busy and really experiencing the culture of your new temporary home is one of the best ways to keep yourself from getting homesick. You’ll also find that the time will fly by – although I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.
2. Introduce Your Family (and friends) to the 21st Century. And by the 21st Century, I mean Skype. This probably won’t be as big an issue with your friends, but your family may need a brief lesson in all the new technology out there that has made the world a seemingly smaller place. Using Skype for free phone calls and video chats, things like Facebook and Twitter to let everyone know what you’re doing all at once, and sites such as Snapfish, Flickr, and Vimeo for photo hosting can make it seem like your family is studying abroad with you. Set Skype dates and try to get them to Skype you during big family functions so you can talk to everyone at once.
3. Still Celebrate those Holidays! Just because the Pilgrims didn’t land in Italy doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate Thanksgiving there. Now you may have to go to work the next day and perhaps you may be the only person searching for a turkey in the whole city, but keeping your traditions alive is one of the best ways to make your new city feel like “home.” When I studied abroad, we celebrated Potluck style with a group of about 20 students (both American and Italian) which was great because the Italians learned about one of our traditions (“So wait? The whole purpose of the holiday is to eat?”) and we got to eat some of their staple dishes. You may have to get a little creative with some of the recipes or have family send you staple ingredients because some things may be hard to come by depending on what part of the world you’re in. Also, just preparing a typical home-cooked meal at anytime is a great way to cure homesickness (or stop by and get some McDonald’s fries – that always works for me!)
4. Watch Your Favorite American TV Shows There are probably dozens of websites that broadcast your favorite TV shows. We would have Grey’s Anatomy nights every Thursday to watch last week’s episode. Combine that with popcorn and chocolate and you couldn’t have told us we were 2000 miles away. Also, bring some of your favorite DVDs (or go to Blockbuster – yes they are international) and have movie night.
5. Seek Out American Performers on International Tours I got to see The Roots (one of my all-time favorite groups) perform live for about 15 euros. And I was practically sitting on the stage. And the best part is that in the sea of Italians, I was like a breath of fresh English-speaking air to them. They invited me to hang out with them after the concert and everything. Also, if you miss American pastimes such as basketball, go to one of their Euroleague games – because it’s not nearly as important as soccer, the tickets are usually pretty cheap. Entertainment is easy to come by in Europe, and it’s a great way to keep your mind off home.
6. Get Someone to Visit This is probably the most difficult of my suggestions. You can make it easier by offering to find them (cheap) flights and planning everything else. As long as they don’t have to do anything but give up the money, it may be a little easier.
The more full your experience, the less likely you are to get homesick. It’s all in the mind anyway! It’s a curable, fleeting feeling that will go away the moment you are doing something exciting and fulfilling in your new country. And I will bet that the minute you return from studying abroad, you will be sick again! But this time it will be a persistent aching to return to that country.
What are some of the ways you dealt with (or can think of dealing with) being homesick?