It is very normal for people to get homesick when they are abroad, especially during the first year. A lot of things might be hard to adapt to when you step into a totally different environment. Your ability to adjust and transition is very critical. If you fail in doing so, you might get upset, worsening the situation. This is what is called “homesickness”. Don’t underestimate the effects of homesickness. In many cases, students are brought down by it because they have difficulties fitting into the new environment.
What are the symptoms of homesickness? Lack of sleep due to irregular bedtime schedules, inability to sleep due unhappiness, changes in appetite, inability to concentrate and study. Some students may even isolate themselves. Many of the signs of depression are similar to the symptoms of homesickness. Depression may lead to performing poorly in academics leading to making one more depressed- vicious cycle.
If you want to adapt well into the college culture and keep a lively schedule and a high performance level, you have to adjust as quick as you can. how does one do that? yourself?
I’ve summarized a couple of points based on my own experience and observations I made from time to time. Hopefully these tips would help you make your transition smoother.
1. Avoid excessive chatting with your family
I was an exchange student my first year in the U.S. I was only allowed to make international phone calls once a month for the first 90 days based on the program policy. Back then I didn’t appreciate the restriction very much and thought it was very inconsiderate. However, now when I look back at it I’m actually very thankful for this policy because it prevented me from relying on my parents and forced me to focus all my attention to my life in America. Usually when you call your parents, the conversations will involve around the things that are happening back home. If you are constantly getting reminded of all the great events and the great food back home, most likely you are going to spend a lot of time thinking about your home. Your lifestyle will stay the same as if you were still in your home country, which would not help you fit in to the new environment at all.
Before you leave for school, my suggestion is that you discuss with your parents about the timing and frequency of the phone calls. You should let them know about your plan for the first couple of months so that they can cooperate with your schedule and reduce the phone calls while still being able to give you the amount of guidance and support you need.
2. Get Involved on Campus
This is very important! When I first came to high school in the U.S.A., I didn’t realize how important extracurricular activities were until I tried out the volleyball team and got to meet so many friends. Usually the students who are into sports are very open-minded and optimistic, so being around them would keep you in a happy mood. On college campuses there are plenty of students clubs you can participate, and you can also volunteer through some service events at your school.
Every college tries its best to offer a variety of activities that you as a student can be a part of. The worst you can do is to stay home and watch all these opportunities go to a waste. Keeping yourself busy would ensure you a high quality of college life and keep you content.
3. Use your friends as a resource
When you get into a new environment, you would need to make a special effort to make new friends and spend your time with them, because this would be the fastest way to adapt yourself. With friends around, you’ll feel less lonely and less homesick. I went to a university where I knew no one but myself, and I tried everything I could to get myself some new friends. I tried to mingle with the students in my residence hall, and talked to the people in my classes. Not long after I was able to have a group of friends whom I hang out with on a regular basis. More friends means you have more things to do in your spare time, and after a while you will get familiar with the things that were new to you at first, and eventually your school might becomes your second home.
4. Understand that it is all about growing up
No matter what you might face, you need to understand that this is a process of growing. The first couple of weeks are when you are excited and wanting to explore all the new things, but after that short period of time of excitement, you will start missing your home. The situation can get worse if your new life doesn’t reach your expectation or you are having difficulty understanding the language and culture. When that does happen, just make sure you have the right attitude and understand that it’s a stage of life that everyone must experience at some point of their life. You’re not alone.
Don’t give up to homesickness, and have some courage. You will soon get a hold of it and start to feel comfortable living in the new environment just as if it was your home.