Most of us were students before, some of us still are. If you reflect on that period of your life you may find that a lot of your time was wasted due to lack of focus and procrastination.  We leave the essays for the day before it’s supposed to be handed in, we study for the exams the night of the exam, we don’t join the societies or the clubs until the year that we are about to graduate, we forget to make friends until it’s too late as everyone had found himself or herself a person or persons to be friends with.  This phenomenon is majorly due to something called “giving up” or “homesickness”.

Many students do not realize that they are homesick, they blame the university because “they didn’t help me”, they blame their classmates because “they refused to give me notes”, they blame the weather “it’s always raining” and they blame their parents “they sent me here”.

Right from the start we need to realize that when we go abroad we are not going to have an easy time, because back home was the heaven that we had lived in where even a glass of water will come to our hand all we need is to whistle, when we live abroad, we have to get our own glass of water as well as everything else that we need in our life, like cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, paying our bills, tidying up our room, making sure we have enough groceries to last us during the exams, making sure we have enough money in the bank to pay our bills (the other day I witnessed expensive phone calls from a boy to his mother saying that he has zero euros in his account and its end of the month which means paying rent, internet bill, electricity bill etc.).

A fantastic amount of time needs to be kept aside for pre-planning everything. We need to do extra reading, we need to do our assignments, and we need to play our sport.  We need to have time for our friends, and time for our studies and time for our own mental balance. Basically, it’s us and us alone who can help ourselves.  There is no mum and dad and that is the beauty of being on our own abroad.

I cannot solve all your problems as you are the one responsible for solving them, however here are a few tips that may help in solving your homesickness (Otago University research):

Homesickness is associated with a variety of daily emotional experiences:

  • Feeling constantly miserable and not knowing why.
  • Feeling a sense of imprisonment in your own room.
  • Feeling dissatisfied with everything.
  • Feeling alienated and threatened by being around people coming from completely different cultural and familial backgrounds.
  • Feeling the need to go back home as soon as you arrive.
  • Being unable to set and follow a reassuring timetable or routine for yourself.
  • Losing your appetite at mealtimes because the atmosphere differs from your homes.
  • Feeling isolated because you think that you’re the only person feeling homesick.
  • Crying for absolutely no reason.
  • Yearning to see something or someone familiar at the end of the day.

Here are a few things you can do to speed up your recovery:

  • Talk about it with an older sibling or friend who has experienced leaving home.
  • Bring familiar items from home to your new location. Photos, stuffed animals, books, anything to give you a sense of continuity to ease the shock of being in a new environment.
  • Familiarise yourself with your new surroundings. Walk around; you’ll feel more in control if you know where buildings, classes and services are.
  • Invite people along to explore. Making friends is a big step to alleviating homesickness.
  • Keep in touch with people back home, but put a limit on your calls as excessiveness may prolong your homesickness. You could always email them about your recent activities and experiences.
  • Plan a date to go home and make arrangements. This often helps prevent impulsive returns and keeps you focused on your goals.
  • Seek new opportunities. As scary as it is to face all those people, all those classes, all those choices, you will still find people you’ll like and get along well with. Take classes that interest you and get involved in your favourite activity or try new ones.
  • Last but not least: do something! Don’t wait for your depression to go away by itself. Buried problems often emerge later disguised as headaches, fatigue, illnesses, or lack of motivation.

Please read these points prior to travelling, and ensure that you are aware of this dilemma, as the last thing you want to do is to return home halfway through the semester feeling sad and losing a year of your life.

Don’t give up!