Homesickness while studying in a foreign country?

    IvyTies
    By IvyTies
    Homesickness while studying in a foreign country?

    Sooner or later, nearly all students studying abroad would experience some degree of homesickness. You will miss your friends, family, language, cuisine, and the sights and sounds of your home country. In this situation, what can you do to reduce feeling of homesickness. Recent research has identified two solutions: one somewhat intuitive--making friends with people from the host culture where you are studying, and one somewhat counter-intuitive--exposing yourself to things that would remind you of your home culture. Let’s look at each of these.

     

    Many times, when students go abroad to study, they seek out others from their own country who are having a similar experience. This makes perfect sense because you and other students from your home country are probably facing similar problems and trying to find out similar things, so there’s no need for each student to reinvent the wheel. However, even after the initial adjustment period, most students tend to continue to be primarily friends with others from their home country. You might think that this would reduce homesickness, right? If you have many friends from your home country, then you should miss your home country less, right?

     

    Researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, a university with a very diverse and international student population, asked international students to describe all the friends that they had at their current university. The researchers counted the number of friends from their home country, from the US, or from other foreign countries. The researchers also measured how homesick students were feeling and how happy they were in the new country. They found that surprisingly, students who had more friends from their home country did not feel less homesick. However, these people were less happy with the foreign university where they were studying. In contrast, students who had more friends from the host country (that is, more American friends) felt less homesick and were happier about studying in the US. So, if you are a student abroad and you don’t want to feel homesick; make friends with locals.

     

    No matter how many friends you have, you can’t spend all your time with your friends. Is there anything you can do while you are alone to make you feel less homesick? Many students believe that if they keep reminding themselves of their home culture, they would miss their country more and feel even more homesick. Such students, if they are studying in the US, might try to only watch mostly American movies and TV shows, eat American food, and so on, trying to avoid reminding themselves of their home culture. However, recent research by professors at Columbia University and at universities in Hong Kong and Singapore found the opposite - the more international students reminded themselves of their home culture in the new country, the better they felt. This might mean decorating your room with things that remind you of your home country, watching TV and movies that you would watch at home, eating comfort food that you ate growing up, and reading books and news from your own country. Being connected with your home culture through these things makes students miss their home country less.

     

    So, if you want to be less homesick, make more friends from the new country where you are studying, but keep doing things that would make you feel connected with your home culture.