5 Tips for Coping with Homesickness
Homesickness (noun): a feeling of longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it (dictionary.com). It may not be a challenge you face immediately once you arrive in the Netherlands because you will most likely hit the ground running with finding housing, furniture, registration and completing your orientation week. But as you settle down in a country with a different culture from yours and begin to absorb the new ways of life, you may encounter this phenomenon.
Depending on your past experiences, homesickness may be something to be aware of before leaving your country. I grew up in Canada as an independent city girl. I thought I had no attachments to small everyday things since I had lived in a few different countries and grew up with a wanderlust attitude. Little did I know, living abroad in the Netherlands as an adult would change my perspective. It has taught me to value the things I took for granted back home. If you think this may apply to you or are curious how another international student has dealt with it, here are my 5 tips for you.
1. Put yourself out there
For me, homesickness was not limited to missing people (i.e. family, friends). It also extended to missing a culture, way of interaction in society and most importantly, connecting with others. My advice would be to find events that interest you, get out and meet new people. Start from your student flat. Do you live with corridor mates, if not, do you have neighbours? Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and to ask others where they are from and what they are studying here in Wageningen. Because they may be curious about you as well! I have lived in 3 different student buildings on Haarweg and at each one I met interesting people both Dutch and international who are now my good friends. When you have time, travel when you can. Seeing different cities has a spark to it and I hope it helps you to find a little adventure while you study abroad.
2. Get involved on campus
An evening concert in Bornsesteeg organized by the group, Springroll
There are many events that pop up around WUR every week. From lunch concerts in the Impulse, movie nights, open mic events in the Spot, informative lectures, community events (check the facebok page of Thuis) and more. The events can be found from posters around campus, the television screens on the Forum and on Facebook event pages. You are bound to find one that interests you. Take a break from your long study or work day to learn/try something new and meet likeminded people while you are doing it. I have met many of my close friends in Wageningen from putting myself out there and getting out of my comfort zone. So the chances are, you will meet people with the same interests and expand your circle of friends in no time.
3. Take up a new hobby
We all know that working and studying all day is exhausting. Plan to take up a hobby or to try something new. It can be learning to cook or bake. Learning yoga. Joining a running group (the Bongerd gym offers many different fitness classes). Or even learning a new language (In’to Language on campus offers courses for a fee). I have always admired string instruments. I decided to gift myself a ukulele for my birthday present during the first year in Wageningen. After a long day of mental concentration, learning the ukulele is a sort of creative outlet. It helps me to de-stress but to remain motivated. I found that setting time aside for me to do an activity I enjoy helps when I am feeling down from stress, exhaustion and the Dutch weather… In a new place, what better way than to start with a new hobby!
4. Build a supportive network
It is easier said than done, but with some time you will find it. As an adult, one of the most important things for feeling supported is to find a community that you feel comfortable in. Whether that means surrounding yourself with students in the same situation as you or having a close knit group of friends from your home country, do what you feel comfortable with. There are often untold expectations to focus your energy on making friends with students from other countries (which I highly encourage). However, if you are missing the comfort of being able to speak your mother tongue language or having someone familiar who you can relate to- you do you! For me, I was able to build my supportive network through ICF church (an international community), meeting friends of friends, attending ISOW classes, attending different events on & off campus and meeting exchange students from North America. If your AID family remains active, try staying in touch with them for a monthly get-together.
5. Stay in contact with family
Lastly, this goes without saying. Stay in contact with family and friends. With time zone differences, try to schedule time to communicate or use tools like Facebook video & messaging, Skype, Whatsapp, Wechat to keep in touch. Share your new experiences and the struggles you are comfortable talking about to let the people back home know you are doing okay in a new country. If you like to use Instagram and Facebook for sharing pictures about your life, be sure to do so. You can also use the hastag #wurlife on Instagram to make your pictures noticeable in the WUR community.
Do you have any tips you would like to share about how to deal with homesickness? If so, please share and comment below!