It comes in waves. Sometimes its a rush of emotions, a sharp pang in your stomach, an overwhelming sense of loneliness that makes you want to cry. Other times its simply a longing for what you left behind. But the worst is when a moment, person or thing that triggers a memory and all suddenly you are overcome by emotion.
One second, you’re happy and laughing with your roommate about the meme she just tagged you in. And something switches. That meme reminds you of your best friend from home, or your little sister, and it all becomes too much. You start to overthink, wondering what your friends are doing, or what book your mum is reading now. Are they thinking about you too?
And then everything comes crashing down.
I had never been apart from my family for longer than 2 weeks before. Being in a foreign country for 11 months is not the same as moving to a house 30 minutes away from your parents. Everything is different. Culture shock is a real thing. I mean, here I am, 10,000 miles away from home in a country that uses the Imperial system, eats chicken and waffles – TOGETHER – and calls a spa a hot tub (genius). And there’s my family and friends at home, sleeping when I feel like the loneliest person at UMass.
At first, I wasn’t too bothered. I mean, I was in AMERICA. I was living out my college dream; living in a dorm, going to frat parties, making new friends. (And yes mum, of COURSE I was studying.) The two Australian girls I made friends with when I arrived both struggled to adjust to college life, while I was thriving. Until, suddenly, I wasn’t.
I remember just feeling really down. I felt so lonely, and even a little anxious. I’d find myself thinking about my family, my dog, my horses, my sister’s looming due date (its a boy – yay!). I missed it all so much it hurt. A knot-in-stomach, I-need-to-throw-up, flash-back-to-my-12-year-old-anxiety kind of hurt.
When you start to feel like this, its so so important to remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Every international student goes through the exact same thing. And so does every college kid. There’s always someone to talk to.
I found a few really effective ways of coping and overcoming my loneliness and anxiety abroad. Homesickness might seem stupid, like you’re in a different country having the time of your life, why waste it worrying about home? But its just a part of the experience.
If you begin to feel overwhelmed, or like no-one understands what you’re going through, just remember you can always reach out. I’m not saying you won’t still miss home because you will. I miss it all the time. But its also important to know that everything will still be there when you get back. Reassure yourself of that. And remember to STAY POSITIVE! This is going to be one of the most memorable, valuable experiences of your life. Homesickness is just one shitty part of it, but the rest will be so worth it.