By Marija Ozegovic
Studying abroad for a just under a year was a life experience that broadened my horizons and taught me so much. However, it didn’t come without its hardships. Prior to exchange, I was the kind of person that liked to plan ahead and follow that plan to a T. So when I was hit with homesickness – which was not part of the plan – I felt helpless and thought that I would have to go back home.
Now that I think of it, I realise that I was a tad dramatic, for lack of better words. Sure I knew about homesickness but I thought it something that comes and goes in a week at most. I didn’t realise that it would actually leave me feeling sick and would last for as long as I let it. So upon reflection of my experience with homesickness, I have thought about some things I wish I knew before that would have helped me get through it a little quicker.
One thing that really exacerbated my homesickness was a lack of research about town my university was located in. Arriving to Kingston was a huge reality check for me. Being a small town, it was unlike any other place I was exposed to, and to top things of I had to live there for a year. I wasn’t familiar with the local transport system, didn’t know where the grocery shops were, or anything else for that matter. This was when I started feeling the sense of loneliness and confusion that comes with homesickness. These feelings would have been less intense if I had done my research. So make sure to know the general gist of your locale because trust me, it would have felt a lot less scary knowing where to go and how to get there, when you land.
Another thing that intensified the feeling of homesickness was constantly checking social media to keep in touch with family and friends back home. Seeing snaps and updates of my network back at home made me feel even more detached and lonely. So to everyone embarking on a semester or two abroad, I would suggest that you isolate yourself from social media for a few days at a time. Limit talking to friends and family back home to once or twice a week, especially at the beginning of exchange because it will really give you the space you need to immerse yourself in the culture of your host country and meet new people who will surely pull you out of your bubble of homesickness.
My last point is the most obvious. Force yourself to go outside and sign up to everything! This seems like common sense but finding the motivation to do it may be hard especially in the midst of your homesickness. However, this was the one thing that helped me the most. It helped me appreciate my host university, meet some amazing people and have one of the best years of my life so far.