College is arguably one of the most important parts of a person’s life. It’s a time for self-discovery, whether it’s academically, physically or mentally. While American students have the option of having their friends and family a short road trip away, for international students, no such option is usually possible.
Young foreigners come to the United States for better opportunities, a better lifestyle and for the essential need to improve their English. Though life in a new country can be exciting and with a “honeymoon phase,” you will undoubtedly miss your homeland at some point, sometimes just a little and other times a whole lot.
Currently, nearly a million international students are enrolled in colleges and universities around the U.S. On top of that, the grand majority of them come from countries a lengthy plane ride away. Homesickness doesn’t affect international students alone as young people who move across the country or even a few states away can also feel the effects.
However, the tips below are mostly aimed at those of a different nationality and culture. Even so, they can apply to you; so don’t hesitate to give them a try if reminiscing about life back home is making you feel a little blue.
Enjoy your “new home”
Regardless of how long you’re staying in your new city, you should take the time to explore the area. Many colleges have partnerships with local transportation services and can offer their students a free or discounted way to get around the city. If you’re part of that lucky group, grab the bus pass and take some time to get to know the four coordinates of your adoptive home.
Of course, proceed with care and ask around at your school beforehand. Investigating your surroundings is helpful for taking your mind off your homesickness. You’re bound to find something interesting outside of your immediate dorm and campus life, which can help you create new positive memories.
Closely related to exploring the city, keeping yourself busy will undoubtedly make it hard for your heart and mind to focus on what and who you left back home. If working is your thing, get a job on campus. Not only will you fill up your schedule but you can also make some money for your leisure piggy bank, maybe even for a round trip fare to visit your friends and family.
You can also volunteer or attend local events to make some local friends along the way. Expand your social circle with a mix of international and domestic students. The latter can help you keep your English conversation skills sharp and also push you out of your comfort zone.
Still, it’s important to find a balance between staying busy and setting some time for yourself to recharge socially, emotionally and physically.
Look for ways to connect with your culture
Depending on the type of city you’re living at, you will be able to find local shops, restaurants or groups from your fellow countrymen and women. Ethnic food is quite popular, so the likelihood of you finding a place serving your favorite dish is quite strong.
If you’re able to find a spot, get to know the people who work or frequent the place. You never know what kind of friends you can make.
As a foreigner, the feeling of finding a person from your home country and sharing your different experiences is quite satisfying. Apart from shops and restaurants, groups or meet-ups can be a good way to meet someone like you.
Again, the size of your city will vary your mileage here, but if there are a decent number of immigrants, you may find social groups specific to your culture.
On top of that, check your school’s list of clubs and organizations. Though they may not have a group from your country, general international clubs can do the job. You will likely find students who may also be dealing with homesickness, so camaraderie can be a way to cope with it.
Skype, FaceTime or Snap — whichever way you’re used to communicating nowadays, phoning home to alleviate your feeling of homesickness is a bit obvious but always worthy of a reminder.
School life can get a bit crazy, either socially or academically. Still, nobody is busy the full 24 hours of a day, so take the time to set up a quick break for you to catch up with friends or family back home. If you’re able, make it a regular part of your routine or schedule so that every time Saturday evening arrives, you know it’s time for your “date” with home.
Share your culture
Most college students are going through the same phase. They’re living in a new city away from home, so they’re “forced” to tell their story when meeting new people. The typical “where are you from?” question will come up in conversation and that’s the perfect time for you to share what life is like in your corner of the Earth.
Domestic students are the ideal audience since they will probably have more contrasting experiences. Another great way to share is to cook a typical meal from your country for your friends. Everyone has to eat and a significant number of people have an open palate for other cuisines. Preparing and eating the food can bring you the extra “comfort” in comfort food.
Overall, there are a lot more ways for you to deal with homesickness. The tips above are just some which have a decent chance of helping you out when you need it. Change is a part of life and whether you move three hours away or three plane rides away, you are bound to miss the place where everybody knows your name.
The goal is to keep the memory of your hometown alive by taking pride in your background. Even so, you must not let your nostalgia for good old memories keep you from enjoying the present. The time and place you live now can contain new (and maybe better) memories.