by HENRIETTE FREESE
Studying abroad can be an extremely thrilling and adventurous experience but it can be challenging too. If you have already started your adventure you might sometimes wonder what you’re doing in the middle of Vancouver, when the rest of your life is taking place somewhere else. You may feel disconnected from your loved ones at home and even the smallest events can trigger homesickness. We’ve all been there before and we want you to know that what you’re experiencing is normal, and it won’t last forever. It’s not easy to overcome homesickness, but here we have summed up some strategies on how to deal with it faster and to begin feel home in your new city.
After checking out your new city’s major attractions and places of interest you should start exploring the niches that make the place unique. Find your favourite coffee shop, explore new parks, get a bike and ride through residential areas. With time you will develop a knowledge of the city like a local, become familiar with all aspects of it and you won’t feel like a stranger anymore.
Knowing about highlights coming up will help you get through periods of stress, anxiety, or homesickness. Sure, you might still have to sit through that test on Thursday, but picturing yourself with your friends on that weekend trip to Whistler you have planned will get you excited and make it easier to get through the stressful parts. We even suggest you create a bucket list for your new country! It can include big things like a weekend getaway, but also smaller things like an exhibition, a trendy coffee place or finally doing the Grouse Grind! If you schedule highlights and challenge yourself in doing them it all will help you stay focused on exploring and remind you of why you went abroad!
It’s important to stay in touch with your friends and family at home, but try to find a balance between catching up and focussing on your new life. If you spend hours on Skype or checking your Facebook feed looking at parties you are missing, you will never fully settle in your new environment. Focus on what you have right now, get out and explore so you can develop a feeling of home. Limit your social media time to a few hours per week.
If you have a favourite hobby from home or if you usually go to training once a week – why stop now? Try to find like-minded people on websites like meetup.com or find out about sports clubs in Vancouver and join an activity! That way you’ll pick up something familiar, establish a routine and also easily connect to people and make new friends that share the same interests. Don’t be afraid if you’re not confident in speaking English yet – not all activities involve a lot of talking, but if you do something fun with nice people the language and confidence will come along naturally.
Stop trying to point out all the differences between your new city and your own culture. Exploring and comparing can be fun, but constantly pointing out what’s “unnormal” will give you a harder time adjusting to your new environment.
When we are homesick we often tend to remember things back home as more colourful and we see them through rose-tinted glasses. Keep in mind that there were probably also stressful periods in your home country, times when you were struggling or had hard moments at school. Getting through difficult times is part of life and makes us appreciate those nice moments coming up even more.
No matter if you only spend two months or a whole year at your new destination, having small personal items will help you create a nice environment you feel comfortable in. It doesn’t always have to cost a lot of money – photos from home, a candle with your favourite scent or a beautiful cushion on your bed can instantly transform a room into your personal place.
Being active will not only help you to stay fit and healthy, but it will also release endorphins in the brain that will help you feel better and distract you from worries. What better city to be in than Vancouver! Explore the beaches, parks, mountains or yoga studios and enjoy what the city has to offer!
Sometimes the only thing that helps is that favourite candy or a special cheese from home. Sure, it might be more expensive to buy imported foods over here but make sure to treat yourself once in a while. Explore foreign delicatessen stores or venture out to Granville Island – the first bite into something familiar will immediately reward you and bring good feelings.
Feeling homesick is normal and sometimes all you might want to do is cuddle up on the sofa with a hot chocolate and your favourite show on Netflix. Everyone can be sad, but don’t let it determine your whole day or week. Countless amounts of students abroad went through exactly the same phases so remember that it’s normal and that it will pass. If it’s hard to overcome this on your own talk to other people – fellow students who might be going through the same thing, your host family or your marketer at VGC! We are always here for you.