So, you’ve been with the family now for a couple of weeks and the “honeymoon” phase is slowly fading away. Activities are not as exciting as they use to be and you find yourself thinking about home more. You may be experiencing homesickness.
Although homesickness is quite self-explanatory, I’d like to discuss it a bit further and comfort you in saying that this is a perfectly normal occurrence! It happens to everyone and it can be seen as a positive thing.
Defined, homesickness is the “distress or functional impairment cause by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents.” Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Alabama’s School of Public Health says that it “stems from our instinctive need for love, protection and security-feelings and qualities usually associate with home.” So, although you are away from home, your emotions are reminding you that home is a good place and you should feel lucky to have a place like that so special to you.
Understanding homesickness, and where it stems from, can help you to deal with it better and perhaps you’ll feel less anxious as to why you’re feeling sad or lonely and just embrace those emotions. Here are some common signs of homesickness and suggestions on how to deal with them:
Feeling sad, lonely or insecure
You may feel as though you are an outsider and that no matter how hard you try, you cannot fit in anywhere. Don’t be too discouraged if the first couple of times you try to hang out with someone, your plans fall through or if you can’t even find someone you own age. Keep trying to meet new people and don’t be afraid to approach someone! A simple “Hi, how are you?” could create a friendship.
Crying for no particular reason is a totally normal part of homesickness. You’re sad and this is your body’s natural reaction. Let yourself be sad and you should feel better after. With the highs come the lows.
Feeling unusually anxious or upset about something Again, you may have no rhyme or reason for feeling on edge but it’s just your body’s way to reacting to discomfort. Put yourself in a comfortable situation such as talking on the phone with your parents, or taking the evening off to watch your favourite movie.
Being unable to get into a comfortable routine
You can’t find your groove and feel as though you need guidance. Ask your host parents if they can recommend any good sport facilities such as gyms, swimming pools or yoga studios. Find an activity in the community that happens once a week or so. This is a great opportunity to meet new friends and have a weekly activity to look forward to! Use online forums and chats such as meetup.com to find people in your area who enjoy the same activities as you.
Reminiscing about times at home
The idea of mom’s homemade meals and dad’s lame jokes may keep popping up in your mind throughout the day. Share these thoughts/memories with people around you; especially your host parents! This is a great way to make a connection with your new host family and to spark a conversation on their past memories. This is also a great opportunity to make your new home a home. Dive into the family’s activities, make a craft with one of the kids or redecorate your room! Home is where the heart is.
It is important to remember that these feelings of homesickness will pass and if you push through them your time abroad will be more beneficial than just getting on the next plane home. It’s important to understand that homesickness is a normal occurrence for everyone and that it is an emotion. Usually, emotions come in waves and you have the strength to ride it out until it’s done! Your emotions are telling you that you are out of your element. It’s good to push ourselves out of our element because it allows us to grow and prosper. But with ying comes yang and we cannot see the light unless we have dark.