Cuddly toys, photos, and chocolate: An international student’s guide to handling homesickness
Spoilers: It’s not by avoiding all human contact
University is a time to gain independence and learn how to be your own person, but it is inevitable for students to feel homesick (even if you only miss your dog). Whether you're 40 miles away or 4000, you're still far from home. So, if you're struggling with being away, here are some tips on how to get through it.
Put photos up in your room
Having photos on your wall can help to make a room your own and feel more familiar. It's comforting, you can add new photos as you go through uni and perhaps become more comfortable. Take pictures of your friends, family, pets, or your favourite places.
Don't avoid going out
You don't have to force yourself to go out constantly, but you should avoid spending long periods in your room. This just gives your mind the opportunity to dwell on how you are feeling.
Bring comforts from home
Whether it's a blanket, cuddly toy, or anything that keeps you comfortable, bring it with you. You won't know you need it until you really do. You can wear cozy clothing as much as you want. Oh, and don't forget to buy chocolate when you're in need.
Remember that not every day will be great (or eventful)
Uni is depicted as a time of freedom, good times, and partying, but it isn't like this all the time. If you have a bad day, don't take this as a sign that things will not be getting better.
Consider having a designated time to call home
Instead of calling home constantly, or wanting to call and never getting around to it, try to arrange a time to call. It could be a certain time or day you can look forward to if you miss home. Your parents and friends will probably appreciate it too.
Know what you are going to say when you call
On the topic of phoning home, keep track of what you want to say. This lessens your chances of having a conversation that consists of both parties asking each other: "what have you been up to?" and responding with: "not much."
Stay updated on what's going on at home
Check the local news websites so you don't feel disconnected. Sometimes feeling like you don't know what's happening at home can make you homesick. You could also find out if you can listen to your local radio station online from time to time.
Explore the area around where you're living
It is easy to become homesick when you fixate on the fact that you are in a place that you don't know as well. A simple way to help with this is to familiarise yourself with the area. Living away from home becomes less daunting when you know where your are.
Keep a regular sleep schedule
Not sleeping well can really affect how you feel. It makes you feel out of sorts which just makes being homesick even worse. Go to bed at a reasonable time and on a fairly regular basis; that means making sure you're not in bed on your phone until 5am.
Watch a film or TV
Make a list of your favourite films and shows so that if you're ever feeling down, you can consult "the list." You can even take it further by organising to Facetime while you both watch something "together."
Don't underestimate the power of memes
When you're busy with coursework, societies, and your social life, it may be hard to keep in contact people back home. No matter how busy you are, there is always time for a meme. It's a great feeling when someone sends you one because it means they thought of you.
Set a date to go home
Once you set a date to go home, it lifts a bit of the weight that you feel. You can confirm that even if you go through a rough time, it won't be permanent, because you know that you'll be home in a definitive amount of days.
Finally, don't beat yourself up
Being homesick does not mean you are doing something wrong. If anything, it's a sign that you have something good to go back to if you need. It's completely normal and the chances are that the people around you are going through the same thing. It's good to appreciate what you miss back home, but don't ignore what you will miss when you leave uni.