Dealing with Homesickness and Strategies to Cope
Although most of my time abroad has been a blast, I’d be lying to say that I haven’t had some homesick days. As an out-of-state student at Ohio State, I have dealt with homesickness before, however, while being abroad it feels quite different. There are different cultural aspects that make it far more difficult being abroad than I experience while at Ohio State. It can be a bit harder here, as I am homesick of Ohio State and my friends in Columbus and my family and friends in Minnesota. Experiencing ‘double homesickness,’ as I like to call it, can be challenging, however, I have developed my own strategies to work through it and build my own success.
One of the most difficult parts of being abroad is the time difference. In Ohio, I am only one hour different from my parents, while in England, I am 5 hours different of Ohio and 6 of my family. This can make communicating with friends and family difficult as they are often at work or in class while I am able to talk, and when they finish, I am getting ready to call it a night. If I am busy with homework or class on a specific day, it makes it even more doffing to make a phone call. Throughout the semester, I have often tried to keep up with people even if it is just through a brief conversation. I also try to set aside some time for social media to communicate with people back home. This can be dangerous occasionally, as it can cause FOMO (fear of missing out) if I spend too much time looking at other people’s posts. I also have occasionally been willing to stay up later in order to communicate with those back home, as it is usually easier for me to be up at 1 am than it is to make someone start their day early.
Another stressor that brings on homesickness is culture and language. Although the British speak English just like us, the Northern English accent can be very difficult to understand, as it is far stronger and thicker than the typical London accent many Americans are used to hearing in the media. I often find myself asking people to repeat themselves, sometimes multiple times. I am sure this can be much more exhausting and stressful in a country that does not have English as their first language. Culturally, I often think about American food. British food tends to not be seasoned nearly as strong and tends to be less flavorful. The US also tends to have many different styles of cuisine available. In Manchester it can be difficult to find any food other than English, Chinese, and Indian. I like trying new foods and discovering new things, but I also miss some of my American favorites like Hot Chicken Takeover or the hole in the wall Mexican gem in my hometown. I also really enjoy cooking and have not cooked since being abroad as my residence is catered.
Some strategies that I have used to deal with homesick are old strategies that I have used in the past, while some are strategies I have picked up here. I have always used working out as a coping strategy, however the University of Manchester does not provide us with a gym membership, so I went and bought a yoga mat and have begun practicing yoga. I have found that this helps me calm down but also stay in shape. It feels soothing and allows me to take my mind off whatever may be bothering me. I also have begun practicing meditation occasionally. One of my classes is a Mental Health course, in which we have learned about strategies for helping patients and different conditions people face, but we have also learned the importance of taking care of yourself. I have found that meditation while stressed provided me head space I need and is refreshing to my mind. Just five minutes of focusing on my own breathing patterns can do me wonders. Finally, I have found that alone time can be both the best and worst strategy. When I am alone, my mind tends to wander off which can lead to worsening homesickness, but it often feels necessary to provide myself alone time, as I spend a significant portion of my time around my friends or in class while abroad. Being able to lay in my bed at the end of the day with a hot cup of tea and Netflix can be one of the most relaxing things I can do.
My time abroad has been incredible, and I would not trade it for the world. I have been honored to represent The Ohio State University in the United Kingdom and am beyond grateful for the opportunity to do so. That said, I would be lying to myself and everyone else if I said that I haven’t had bad days. As the semester begins to wind down and I reflect on my experiences, I now realize that I will likely experience many of my homesick emotions toward the UK when I return Stateside. Before leaving, a friend told me “Even the worst days abroad are some of the best of your life.” I often think about when she told me that and remember that all will be okay.