By Erran Owenby, Lenoir-Rhyne University
Hola! My name is Erran Owenby. I attend Barcelona School for International Studies (SIS) and my major is Graphic Design. I am currently studying abroad for the Spring 2020 semester from January 2nd to April 24th. As you can tell, I will be here for a total of about four months and that’s a long time to be away from my family, considering I used to go home every other week at my home university. I have been in Barcelona for a few weeks now, and at this point, homesickness has begun to affect me as well as many other participants. I am going to share with you seven tips for how I’ve handled homesickness considering that I am a homebody.
1. Pack something that is personal to you and reminds you of home.
Having something that reminds you of home, even if it’s the smallest thing, can make a big impact. I decided to bring some printed photos of my friends and family and I hung them up in my room. It’s really nice to see photos of them everyday, although I may not talk to them everyday. I also packed a stuffed animal that looks like my dog. This seems like something silly but I have had it for a while and it’s nice to sleep with at night when I am missing home. These are items that I do not have to do anything with, but simply having them in my presence reminds me of home and helps me cope with homesickness.
2. Don’t call your family everyday.
I know that this is going to be hard considering that you are dealing with homesickness, but in my opinion and through my own experience, if you call your family every single day, you will eventually rely on talking to them and sharing your experiences daily. Although they would love this, calling them every day might make you miss them more and want to go home. If you take a few days away from your phone, and enjoy the country that you’re in, it will make the calls more special and have more of an effect on you when you do call them.
3. Always have something to look forward to.
When you are studying abroad for a semester, it may seem like a long time. But as the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” If you plan things in advance, you will always have something to look forward to and it will also keep your mind off of your homesickness if you are having fun and enjoying your stay. There are tons of things to do here in Barcelona that can even be free of charge if you plan accordingly. Whether it is planning a weekend trip somewhere, or simply planning an evening to watch the sunset at the Botanical Gardens, you will have something to look forward to and it will make your time here more enjoyable.
4. Make your living space comfortable.
Whether you are living in an apartment or a homestay, make it a place that you enjoy coming home to everyday. If your room has nothing on the walls, it may make you feel uncomfortable or lonely. I suggest buying a poster or a plant to make the room feel more cozy. I live in an apartment and there was nothing on the walls when I first arrived. I now have pictures of my friends and family hung up as well as a Barcelona flag and these small details make such a difference.
5. Work on yourself!
You are going to be abroad for such an extended period of time and this is the perfect time to work on yourself and become the best person you can. Go out of your comfort zone, try new things, and take this time to become more independent. You have probably either lived in a college dorm or with your parents the past few years, so you are still relying on them and you’re going to miss them when you’re here. When you are abroad, you are truly living on your own in a new place for the first time. Take advantage of this and become more independent – go out and do things on your own once in a while. You don’t want to constantly rely on having someone by your side because when you are actually alone, you will feel truly alone. After all, you are living here so make it your home. Getting out there instead of sitting in your apartment will make you enjoy your time more and fall in love with Barcelona.
6. Create a routine.
The first week or so will be filled with so many different activities and new people, but once classes start, things begin to calm down and you may begin to feel homesick. Creating a routine will make you feel more at home while allowing you to get used to your new home. Each week make sure you attend your classes (because attendance is a grade), go to different coffee shops each day to do your homework, and at the beginning of every week plan out a few things that you’d like to do during the week. Creating a routine and knowing what you’re doing for the week ahead will distract you and make you transition into your new home easier.
7. Find something to do that reminds you of home.
If you enjoy swimming, walk to the beach. If you enjoy dog walking, volunteer at the local animal shelter. There are tons of things to do here for people with all interests. Meet Up is a good app that allows you to meet people (many of them locals!) and do all sorts of activities such as painting classes, sailing trips, cooking classes, running on the beach, and more. Find anything that you enjoy or something that reminds you of home. Since I’m from the mountains, the city is very different for me, so somewhere that I go that reminds me of home is the park next to Arc de Triomf or I go watch the sunset at the Bunkers or Park Güell.
Whether you are living your best life here or not, you’re probably going to get homesick at some point. These are some tips that I have tried that have helped me overcome homesickness. I hope that these tips will help you transition into your new home away from home and make the most of your time abroad.