Study Abroad: How to Overcome Homesickness and Culture Shock

20 Responses

  1. Jenn says:

    I’ve lived abroad for four years and I find homesickness rarely gets talked about in the expat community. After the first month or so, you are expected to get over it and enjoy your time abroad. I truly agree that the best way to get over it is to make good friends, ones that you can lean on when you are missing home. Great article!

    • Kiyoko says:

      Thanks! I think it is definitely something that should be talked about more. When I first dealt with homesickness and was trying to find ways to deal with it, most articles I could find were all about going away to college.

  2. Nice article about something that is not often talked about on travel blogs. I think traveling for several months and staying abroad for several months are two very different things. When I am traveling for months (discovering something new everyday), the discovery momentum lasts and I don’t really feel homesick. But if I am staying in a foreign country for months then, a new routine appears and I end up missing my previous routine in my home country. So for me what works is making sure I discover or visit something new everyday or every few days, to trick my brain into thinking that my life in the foreign country is much richer than it was in my home country.

    • Kiyoko says:

      I think you’re on to something about there being a difference between traveling for months and living abroad for months. In all of my travels, my study abroad experience was the only time I’ve ever been homesick. Even while studying abroad, I wanted to go out and explore and see all the cool and great things. I had that discovery momentum, but I ended up with a panic attack instead, completely overwhelmed by the crowded city, loud sounds, intense smells, and bright lights. I come from a small rural town, so Tokyo was definitely a shock, but I’d been to New York before moving to Tokyo, and I absolutely loved New York. I think the difference was that in my mind I knew Tokyo wasn’t just a trip. This was my new home, and these loud sounds, intense smells, and bright lights were something I was going to have to deal with every day. I think that’s the difference and maybe where homesickness starts to sink in.

  3. Having lived abroad in my teens and early twenties I think the best tip is to force yourself out and to meet people. Everything feels so much better then. The other thing is really to make the most of every opportunity. Whilst I would not say that every moment of my time away was awesome, I would say that it changed the direction of my life and made me much more self sufficient.

    • Kiyoko says:

      I agree. Getting to know people in your new community is incredibly important, but I also think that, while people should push themselves to not sit in their room all day, they also shouldn’t push themselves too hard, otherwise they’ll just end up stressed out and have a panic attack as I did. They have to take one day at a time and work on taking footsteps forward, no matter how small they may be.

  4. As a long term traveler, I do feel homesick every now and then. What I find helpful is to talk to other people, which is why I stay mostly in hostels where I can find other solo travelers. Great post!

    • Kiyoko says:

      Personally, I’ve never stayed in a hostel, but it is definitely something I would love to do in the future. I think it’s great that you can meet other travelers looking to explore the same places as you!

  5. Muryan says:

    I’ve been living in Thailand by myself for about 7 years now but I still get homesick from time to time… I think it’s mostly just FOMO. So your Tip #2 is spot on! Sometimes I intentionally do not look at my family’s fb posts hahaha.

    • Kiyoko says:

      Yes! Later during my time in Japan (after I conquered my homesickness), I was traveling around the country going to many of the places on my bucket list because my exchange university gave us a week spring vacation. One night in my hotel I was scrolling through Facebook and saw that many of my friends back from my dorm were celebrating somebody’s birthday and ended up in a food fight that looked like loads of fun. In that moment, I felt that pang of homesickness (although this time it was a desire to return to my dorm, not my home country). I put it away and had to remind myself that I was out visiting some incredible places, and this was probably a once in a lifetime adventure. I would have plenty of time to hang out with my friends when I got back from my spring vacation.

  6. Sreekar says:

    Hmmm never thought of homesickness this way! An eye-opener indeed! My expat friends keep talking about this and they say the solution to it is friends, alcohol, and travel in varying proportions:) Guess you get my swing!

    • Kiyoko says:

      Most definitely! I think a lot of people often think about homesickness when it comes to moving away for college or something similar (at least that was what often came up when I was originally searching for overcoming homesickness about a year ago). I definitely think it’s important to recognize that there are a lot of different types of homesickness that depend on the situations people find themselves in.

  7. rocio says:

    I totally understand what you are saying. I am living abroad now, and not just for a couple of months, probably forever! The blog. my beating was the the blog.

    • Kiyoko says:

      Great idea! When it comes to expressing myself, I have always found writing better than speaking. It allows me to gather my thoughts into a coherent train of thought and often provides myself some clarity. Writing, whether it be for others to read on a blog or to keep it private in a journal, writing is a great way of getting over some of your biggest challenges.

  8. Megan Jerrard says:

    I agree that homesickness is something that people don’t take seriously enough – if it’s not dealt with and you don’t know how to handle it, I’ve seen it very quickly spiral into depression. So sorry to hear that you struggled with sever homesickness – mental health really can have an affect on your physical state as you found with food. These are fantastic tips and strategies for dealing with it, and I’m so glad to hear that your took a turn for the better. I think having a support network and people to lean on is one of the biggest things, as new friends allow you to feel comfortable in your new home.

    Thankyou for shining a light on this and highlighting something people don’t often like to speak about.

    • Kiyoko says:

      Thanks for the great feedback! As an only child, I had been used to being by myself at home. I’ll admit, it shocked me a little to realize just how much I needed other people in order to feel comfortable in my new home.

  9. Home sickness can be a real issue that one needs to face, especially when you are away for a long period. You have given some valuable suggestions to overcome home sickness. The best way probably is to focus on the present and get immersed in the experiences of everyday so that you do not have much time to think and this will definitely heal the home sickness.

    • Kiyoko says:

      I definitely agree. When I first arrived in Japan, I had a full week to myself before my orientation, so I really didn’t have to much to preoccupy myself with other than just generally getting settled in. I found that once events start happening and I had things to focus on, it became easier.

  10. Emma AKA says:

    As everyone has said, such a rarely-seen topic, yet one we probably all encounter either on the road or on our return home.

    I taught in China for two years, after spending the first 3 weeks starting everyday thinking that would be the day I’d head home. By the evenings, I’d found something to stay for the next day!

    Good friends and writing down my thoughts and experiences helped me to find my new routine….that and advice from a friend back home who said I was only ever 24 hours from home.

    And when I did return home, it took me about six months to find myself all over again…but I’d had experiences that will stay with me for life.

    • Kiyoko says:

      I definitely think that finding things to stay for is another great tip for overcoming homesickness. It might take a while, but the drive to want to have amazing experiences can eventually overcome the desire to go home. Things may not be perfect in your new place, but often the experiences waiting there are worth it! Sometimes we just need that little reminder…

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