One of the challenges of Erasmus, which I think many people are afraid to talk about, is homesickness. I’m sure that everyone will tell you that this time abroad will be one of the best moments of your life, and it probably will be! But that doesn’t mean you won’t face any difficulties along the way. For many Erasmus students, it’s the first time they will have spent such a long time away from home, in a brand new country and culture, so it’s completely normal to miss your family, friends and home comforts. Here are a few tips on how to handle this feeling of homesickness, so you can make the most out of your time abroad.
This is actually one of the most important things you can do when feeling homesick – instead of trying to push aside your feelings and pretend like everything’s ok, it’s really important to allow yourself to feel this way. Also, make sure you don’t compare yourself to others, with ideas like “everyone else is fine” and “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”, because these thoughts aren’t constructive, and will only make you feel worse, besides, most people will be feeling the same way! If you’re honest with yourself and accept how you’re feeling, you’re much more likely to handle your emotions better and come up with positive actions.
When you are feeling down, it is easy to neglect your most basic needs. When you’re missing having someone to take care of you, you should take care of yourself. For example, you need to make sure you are eating good, healthy meals – go to the supermarket and buy the ingredients for your favourite home dish, make it for yourself, and it will make you feel like you are at home. It might feel really tempting to lie in bed and neglect yourself, but simple things like sticking to a routine of showering, eating good meals and exercising. Look after your basic welfare will make you feel so much better.
I can guarantee that your family and friends will be missing you just as much as you are missing them, so there’s nothing better to help cure your homesickness than having a good long video chat with them. They will love to hear from you and everything you are up to whilst abroad, and you can catch up on everything they have been doing too, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out as much. Just remember, video chats and calls are great, but make sure you don’t get caught up online and stop interacting with people in your new life – you could end up feeling isolated which will only make your homesickness worse.
It might seem obvious, but getting outside, taking a walk and exploring your new surroundings can make you feel so much more positive. Wander into the cafes, mooch around the shops, stroll around the parks and discover your new home’s hidden treasures. As well as the benefits of some light exercise and fresh air, which will release endorphins, you will start to discover the wonderful things that your new home has to offer. If you’re feeling anxious, you can walk listening to your favourite music or podcasts to help you relax.
Feeling homesick can make us feel quite shy and nervous, and often causes us to hide away instead of reaching out to new people. Really try and challenge yourself to be friendly and approachable with the new people you meet, whether it be your roommates, your classmates at your new university or the other Erasmus students that you might meet at meetups, trips and events. Once you start to build connections with the new people around you, you will start to feel more at home and your homesickness will begin to fade. It can be scary, but if you put yourself out there, it will pay off!
This kind of touches on things that have already been mentioned, but when you’re feeling low or lonely, instead of staying in and shutting yourself off, try and fill your free time with things that you enjoy. It could be going for a walk, a run, joining a gym or a dance class, cooking, baking, photography, reading, writing, watching a new series… anything! It’s totally up to you – just make sure you are doing things that make you feel good and distract you from your feelings of homesickness. Keep yourself busy and you’ll be feeling better in no time.
So here are some of my tips on how to handle feelings of homesickness whilst abroad. Despite all the pressure to be ‘having the time of your life’, it’s totally normal to feel this way, especially near the beginning of your Erasmus, so don’t panic. Follow this advice and I’m sure that with time your city will begin to feel like your new home away from home!