Homesickness is very common among students that travel across state lines to attend college. But have you ever thought about how international students fare?
Homesickness itself is a natural feeling. It happens when we feel physically and emotionally insecure about where we are. At that point, we just want somewhere else that is predictable, stable, and consistent. And that place is usually our home!
Why did I decide to write about homesickness?
My roommate did not believe when she overheard me telling someone that I was not homesick. She walked over from where she was before asking, “What do you mean you are not homesick?” I shrugged because I didn’t know how to reply to her. But she was persistent, “You have not been home in almost a year now.” So, how is it possible that you do not feel homesick? “
She was right! I should be homesick, but she wouldn’t understand that I have learnt to rise above it.
Dealing with homesickness initially
My first year on campus was really terrifying. I felt as if I was lost. I was far from home, and there was nothing around to remind me of home.
So it meant that I spent that period in college being unhappy at all times. This was because I didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that were lying around.
But after a few months, I realized that I was not going to achieve anything with that attitude and something needed to change. The first thing I did was sit down and remember the reason why I flew all the way here to attend college.
It was at that moment that I knew that homesickness was the price I was going to pay to achieve my goals. But at the same time, I had to deal with it.
Thankfully, I had a childhood teddy bear that my dad insisted I bring along with me. This kept me company. It gave me small comforts and sometimes I felt as if I was in my room at home. There were times when hugging it reminded me of some happy memories, and those would cheer me up.
Another thing that helped me initially was some spices I brought along when I was coming. Since I couldn’t cook my meals, I had to get creative. I started mixing the spices with the foods served. And when I ran out of those spices, I would go to the supermarket to get similar ones.
After a while…
One thing I realized only later was that every college had a community for international students. No matter what country you are from, you will find others. The best thing is that they are always very willing to help you settle down as quickly as possible.
The reason is that every single one of them knows exactly how you are feeling. The community where I was would hold mini events similar to those we would have at home. There were usually a lot of local delicacies. We would wear our native attire, play music from our home country, and dance as if our lives depended on it.
These events helped me stay connected with my culture. It also gave me that “home away from home” feeling that comforts me on certain days when I really miss home.
After I joined the community, one thing that really helped me was constant communication with my family back home. When I first came to college, I knew that I was going to feel homesick, so I thought constantly reaching out to them would make it worse.
However, not communicating with them made me miss them more. And I didn’t realize this until someone in the students’ community asked me how often I spoke to my family. The person could not believe his ears when he heard how long it had been.
So what did I do?
I called them immediately, and while on the call, I realized just how much I had missed their voices. In the background were my siblings squabbling and screaming at one another, and when I closed my eyes I felt as if I was there.
Now, there is no week that passes without me reaching out to my family. Sometimes I talk to my parents, other times it’s just my siblings, but most of the time, I make sure I pick a time where everyone is around. There are different platforms available, and communication is cheaper than it has ever been. For me, I prefer to use video calls as it makes me feel as if I’m next to them.
One last thing I figured out for myself
When I got to my third year, everything became a routine, so I was coping really well. One day, I was at a gift shop picking out a birthday present for a friend, and before I knew it, I added a journal to my shopping cart. I wasn’t much of a writer then, but I paid for it.
The journal sat on my desk for weeks because I didn’t know what I was going to use it for. However, there was a day I had an experience I didn’t want to forget to tell my parents during the next call. And suddenly I knew what to use it for!
I needed to document my experiences. One of my biggest regrets is that I don’t have anything written down from my first and second years. Even though I try to write it down on several occasions, I wasn’t just able to put it down as it would have been at that time.
Apart from writing in my journal, I use my phone to take pictures or videos. Many times, I share this with my family before I call them. This makes our call sessions a lot more interesting, and we have more things to talk about.
Also, I sometimes look at that old journal and I see how much I have grown.
Everyone knows that leaving behind your family and the life that you have known is pretty difficult. But it is something that many students have done successfully. Even though it was initially difficult for me, I also managed to pull through. So, you can do it as well.
Just remember to keep a positive mindset, look for a student community, communicate constantly with your family, and document your experiences. All these things helped me to beat homesickness, and I hope that they will help you too.
How did you deal with homesickness as an international student? Share your experiences in the comments below!
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