As we approach the end of October, the exciting newness of living in America may be wearing off. Homesickness may be settling in, causing you feelings of loneliness and sadness. Homesickness is the intense feeling of missing one’s home, which can include family, culture, food, language, and even pets. It can cause anxiety and sadness because of being disconnected from the familiar.
Longing for home is a normal part of cultural adjustment. Adapting to a new “home” does not come quickly and takes time to settle in. Learning how to cope in an unfamiliar environment is an important life skill that will be a benefit as you make moves and transitions later in life. Remember you are not alone in what you are experiencing.
When struggling with homesickness, you will start to think about how good and comfortable your life at home was. It is easy to reflect on all the positive things you left behind when you got on that plane. Life in your new home may be different than you expected, and not as fun as you had hoped. You might be tempted to compare which culture is better. It is also easy to withdraw from others and spend time alone in your room.
But let’s look at healthy ways to work through homesickness:
- Limit the amount of time you spend talking on the phone with family and friends back home. This may seem the opposite of what you think will help. It is important to stay in touch with friends, but too much time keeps you from developing new relationships. Emailing family can be better than spending hours on the phone, which keeps you from building a relationship with your host family.
- Create an “Exploration List.” Do a little research and see what interesting places you can discover in your new town….it may be restaurants, historical buildings, parks, or cultural locations. Ask your host family to help you check things off your list.
- Keep a journal. Writing down your feelings and experiences helps you process your emotions. In a journal, you can be honest with how things are going, but you can also include what is going well, so you can remember when there are difficult days.
- Get outside! America is full of beautiful places with lots of nature and green spaces. If writing in a journal is not interesting to you, go outside and make a photo log of your community. All of our phones have excellent quality cameras that you can use to capture the beauty around you.
- Get moving! Go for a walk, ride a bike, visit a gym, take an exercise class- there are lots of ways to get exercise that keeps your body and mind healthy. Research has shown that regular exercise releases a chemical in the brain that causes happiness.
- Take a risk! Taking risks is scary, but can have big benefits in helping you adjust faster to your new home. Join a club or sport at school. Talk to someone new on the school bus. Volunteer to serve at church or in your community. Cook a traditional meal for your host family. There are lots of ways you can try new things and make new friends!
- Talk to someone you trust. When you are feeling sad about not being home, don’t be afraid to share your thoughts with your friends or AHLI Coordinator. Even if they have not experienced the same thing, they can be a support just by listening.
Remember that home will still be there when you return. Embrace your current situation as an opportunity to learn and experience new things. With time, the feelings of homesickness come less frequently. Trust the adjustment process, and you will start to become acclimated to your host family, school, and community.
Tiffanee M. Wright, MA, MPH | Executive Director
AHLI – International Education and Homestay