4 easy tips to conquer homesickness
August 18, 2017
Welcome to campus, Illini! As a new international student, the first few weeks will most likely speed past in a blur of new faces, classes and free orange T-shirts, but as the school year starts to settle down and you get into a routine, you may find yourself getting a little homesick.
During my study abroad program last spring, there were days where all I wanted to do was curl up on my apartment couch with my best friend or have my mom make me eggs and pancakes. Even though those days were tough, the overall experience was incredibly rewarding, as I’m sure your time here will be, too. When you start to feel the homesickness blues coming on, try these strategies to feel a little better.
Keep pieces of home nearby
Although your space in your suitcase or dorm may be limited, keep at least one item that reminds you of home close by. This could be your favorite sweater or the blanket from your bed at home, but it could also be small things like photos of family and friends or a piece of jewelry. For example, before I went abroad, my mom gave me the watch she had bought herself after she graduated from college, and I wore it every day when I was gone. Every time I saw it, I would remember her and smile.
If you like to cook, try making a family recipe. If you are living in the dorms, you can rent out the student kitchen or convince a friend to let you borrow their apartment for the evening. If you need specific ingredients, there are international grocery stores in Champaign and many ingredients can be found online.
Join an international student group
When you are missing your life at home, it may be nice to surround yourself with others who are struggling with the same thing. There are many different international student associations on campus, as well as cultural fraternities and sororities. The cultural houses located on Nevada Street in Urbana also host events where you can meet other international students.
However, don’t feel like international students are the only people on campus who understand what it’s like to be homesick. Many other students come from out of state, and as students from California find out in January, Illinois can feel very different than home. Reach out to friends when you need someone to talk to. They may be going through the same thing.
Talk to family and friends whenever you can
Communicating with people on the other side of the world has never been easier, thanks to WhatsApp, Skype and other media platforms, but the time difference can still make it difficult to get any significant conversations with family and friends at home. Texting is nice, but sometimes it can make all the difference to see a friend’s face pop up on your computer screen or hear your dad’s voice.
Although it can be difficult to adjust to the fact that your friends are running on a totally different schedule than you, you’ll soon find a routine of which times work best to call. For example, when I was in Spain, seven hours ahead of Champaign, I could talk to my parents just after they woke up – after lunch for me – but I had a better chance of talking to my friends as they were coming in from a night out, when I was getting ready in the morning.
Reach out for help if needed
If you find yourself really struggling with the transition, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. The University of Illinois Counseling Center offers Cultural Diversity Outreach, including a section specifically for International Student Outreach. The professionals there can help with any symptoms of culture shock you may be experiencing and can ease the transition to life at Illinois.
In the end, I had far more great days than bad days in Spain, and I hope that you have the same experience while at Illinois.
Isabella is a senior in LAS