How to deal with homesickness as an international student

Homesickness can be defined as the feelings of sadness, anxiety or stress you may feel when you’re away from the people and places that are familiar to you.

After spending months surrounded by family and indoors, for the new international students that may be traveling for the first time to study abroad, homesickness is going to prove to be a greater challenge than pre-pandemic. 

Being away from your loved ones (family, friends or partners), your pets, and your traditions might be difficult when you find yourself in a different country and culture, and sometimes even a new language.Though I haven’t been an international student, I can relate to being homesick, having moved from my hometown to a big city, where the weather, rhythm of life, and the people were so different from what I was used to!

Here at International Student Insurance, we want to present to you some tips that might help you cope with feeling homesick while you adapt to the new place and people that surround you.

1. Allow yourself to feel sad and miss home for a bit

Yes, we understand that you might have to focus on your studies, particularly if you have a scholarship, but allowing yourself to express your emotions is a healthier way to cope than bottling everything up. I have found  a useful strategy to set a time during the day to cry or just feel sad, since letting your emotions out in a controlled environment will allow you to move on and focus on other important responsibilities throughout the day. Another way to cope is by journaling and putting your feelings in writing. You’ll realize that, as time passes, you will start feeling more at peace with the idea of being away from home!

2. Find a new favorite place in the host country

Sometimes the feelings of homesickness are not only attached to people, but also places that we enjoy visiting. We all have that one favorite spot in our cities; it could be places such as a coffee shop, library, or even a place where you can be close to nature, like the woods of the beach. For example, my favorite spot in my city is a cafeteria around the corner, where I like to go sometimes on Saturdays to have coffee and lunch, and usually bring a book with me.I find that being surrounded by a comforting environment can help you cope when you are feeling blue or homesick. Even though being in a foreign country can be overwhelming at first, think of the many places that you can discover and how exciting getting to try different foods or activities in a new place can be!

3. Practice self-care

Little acts of kindness towards oneself can make a big difference in your overall happiness and mood! Self-care may vary depending on the person. Activities such as cooking your favorite nutritious meal, taking a relaxing bath using your favorite products, or practicing meditation or yoga are examples of things you can do when you’re feeling sad and need to pamper yourself a little! 

Did you  know that exercising works wonders for your body when you’re feeling sad? When you exercise, your brain increases the production of serotonin, which improves your overall mood and increases your energy levels! Taking time to do things that make you happy can help you combat those feelings of homesickness.

4. Talk to new people

This might be easier for some than for others, but creating new bonds in the host country will help you alleviate the feelings of homesickness. Don’t forget that, the same as you, many other international students might be dealing with the same feelings of missing home and you should think of this as an opportunity to get to know different people and their cultures! You might also want to check if your university or college offers clubs or activities that you can engage in, since that would help you keep yourself busy and interact with more people that have interests or hobbies similar to yours. 

5. Keep in touch with your loved ones back home (but not too much!)

While calling your family once or twice a week when you’re away can ease the feelings of homesickness, calling them everyday might reinforce it! Therefore, it is recommended that you limit your contact with your loved ones while dealing with homesickness. Staying away from social media can also help with this, since you won’t be paying attention to what your friends or family are doing back in your home country. Instead, focus on exploring your new surroundings and meeting new people!

Feeling homesick when you first begin your international studies is completely normal and usually temporary. However, if you notice a change in your eating and sleeping habits and you’re feeling tired and unmotivated, you might be dealing with depression and depression isn’t something you want to ignore. If you’re feeling like this, talk to somebody! You’re not alone! Many universities offer free counseling for their students and there are also other resources that you can use. You may find some useful resources below:

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