Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How to Overcome: Homesickness

Prompted by recent events, I thought I would do a little post on homesickness.  Others might call it culture shock.  Use what term you like.

Once you move abroad most people experience a 2 week- 1 month high.  This is where you're excited to be somewhere new.  Everything is different and cool.  You're learning new things, and you're still in "vacation" mode.  After this you start to feel down.  These once cool, new things are now annoying and frustrating.  Instead of being wowed by differences, you wonder why things can't be more "normal", like where you're from.  You stop learning the language as quickly as before, you get frustrated you can't express yourself.  If you make it through this middle stage, you end up on the other side feeling accomplished and like a new person.  Making it through the funk is a hard part though.

Here's some ways to make it:

STAY POSITIVE- Yeah so things might not be looking so great right now.  But what you need to do is stay positive.  Remember the reasons you left.  Remember how excited you were.  Stop thinking about how much better your home country does such-and-such.  Find something to be happy about every day, and focus on that.

FIND NEW THINGS TO LOVE- Okay so maybe in your home country it is sooooo much easier to get around, but in your new home maybe there's a fantastic bakery.  Or a really great bar.  Or a beautiful beach.  Whatever it is that you really enjoy about your new location.  Find those things, and concentrate on them.

DON'T MAKE COMPARISONS-  So kind of this one and the ones above it all go hand-in-hand.  Don't sit around and compare your new home with your old home.  It's okay to appreciate differences, but you shouldn't constantly be comparing the two.  Don't try to decide which country is "better".  Both places are different and great in their own ways.  Learn to appreciate new things in your new country, and things you might have taken for granted in your old home.

STAY BUSY-  As soon as you start sitting around all day and reading your friend's facebook updates, you'll get more and more homesick.  Where if you are constantly running around busy with things you're less likely to think about missing home.  You should have something to do, be it work, volunteering, clubs, exercise, anything!

SMALL STEPS-  If you are in a country with a different language, it could be very difficult to adjust.  At first you'll learn a whole lot.  You'll go to bed and your head will hurt because you've been thinking so hard just to ask for a plate of food.  Then it starts to slow down.  You realize you're not as good as the locals, and get frustrated that you can't speak in your native tongue.  Then you might get to a point where you're "fluent" but not enough to express yourself exactly the way you want to (sort of how I am right now in Spanish).  During all of your language learning you should celebrate small accomplishments.  Maybe this time you remembered to use "por" instead of "para" when saying thanks for dinner.  Maybe you can finally understand the guy that works at your favorite restaurant.  Learning a language is a long process and if you don't pat yourself on the back every once in a while it can be quite daunting.

So there's just a few tips to help you assimilate to your new country!  Good luck!


D said...

Man, this is so true (although I've never been in a foreigh language-speaking country for more than a couple weeks at a time)! It also makes the homesickness 10x as bad (for me, at least) when the weather sucks. But it's still worth it :D.