By Laszlo Van Straelen, Guilford College
It’s no secret that being abroad for a long time can be full of highs and lows. There will always be excitement when one is leaving home to live in another country for a while. The first few weeks of a study abroad experience is usually experimental, where you get used to the cultural differences and explore as much as possible. There are plenty of events to attend and meeting people is very easy. After the excitement wears off, some people may begin to feel a sense of homesickness. This can be especially strong if you don’t speak the language or are in a place that has a completely different culture from home. This happened to me when I was about 3 weeks in. My internship had started late, and therefore I had plenty of free time in the morning to kill, while everyone else was in class or working. I spent a majority of that time watching Netflix. It turns out that sitting in your room watching TV fuels the feelings of homesickness.
While it is completely normal to feel homesick while abroad, it certainly isn’t fun. Below are a few ways that you can combat this feeling of homesickness and have the best possible time abroad.
Exercise has been proven over and over to be extremely good at alleviating stress and improving mental health. I play soccer back home, and coming here I wanted to play as much as possible. During that third week, the times I felt the least homesick was when I was playing soccer. I spent about an hour every morning at a local court, most of the time alone, and it was great. If soccer isn’t your thing, try going for a run, joining a gym, or playing some pickup basketball. This is not only great for your body, but it will also help with any feelings of missing home.
2) Contact Family/Friends Back Home!
This might seem counterproductive. You’re probably thinking, “If I’m feeling homesick, the last thing I would want to do is see how much fun my friends are having without me back home!” Surprisingly, the opposite is true. You will find that a lot of your friends and family are very interested in your time abroad, and will be asking you tons of questions about your trip. Telling everyone about your time can help you realize how much fun you have been having and feel more motivated to go out and do things that will help you make stories that you can’t wait to tell your loved ones.
3) Finally… Be In The Moment!
Being in the moment is very important. Think about the last semester you had at college. It probably went by in a blur. I feel like my entire sophomore year lasted about two weeks. Now I’m on my second semester of my junior year, and I know that being in Barcelona is going to make this semester fly by twice as fast. Remind yourself to slow down and focus on the small things of every day. You will begin to appreciate your time abroad and hopefully won’t miss home quite as much.