Traveling abroad for extended periods of time, especially while also being a student, can create a significant amount of stress that some may not have experienced before. In addition to this stress, even for those with wanderlust who travel away from home often, it’s not uncommon to become a little homesick. I’ve compiled several ways to healthily cope with both stress and homesickness for incoming and continuing exchange students. This is in no way an exhaustive list, but hopefully it can be a good starting point for those of you who may need a little assistance while studying abroad.
- Take time for self-care. Get enough sleep (the average university student needs at least eight hours of sleep), eat healthy food (foods rich in Vitamin C can help boost your immune system and aid in stress relief. If you get sick, you’ll only stress out more about being sick), and enjoy creative activities such as painting, reading, singing, etc. Also be sure to take care of your hygiene.
- Change your thinking, as thinking stressful thoughts leads to stress. If you focus your thoughts on concrete ways to create time to work on a project, then you can reduce the amount of stress that builds up from worrying about not having enough time or resources.
- Take one step at a time. Break up your work into manageable portions that feel less overwhelming than the big picture. Make to-do lists and follow through with realistic deadlines.
- Lower your goals. Don’t strive for the ever-unattainable perfection. Strive for being satisfied with your performance.
- Stay balanced. Schedule breaks between work and studying. No matter how hard you try, no one can maintain constant focus and you’ll end up becoming burnt out. The quality of your project will suffer along with you.
- Ask for help. No one is above receiving help from others. Join a study group or make friends with at least one other person in your class and work together. Don’t be afraid to ask your professors for further clarification or advice.
- Accept failure as an option. You may not want to hear this, but the world will not end if you get a bad grade or fail a class. Failure gives us an opportunity to do better the next time. Learn from your mistakes and grow as a person. Sometimes things just don’t work out and that’s life.
- Acknowledge the fact that you feel homesick. Homesickness is a natural response to being in a different country with an entirely different cultural background. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
- Talk about it with a friend or family member who has also experienced being away from home. If you have a roommate, they may also be able to help you out with any worries you have.
- Keep in touch with family and friends by calling home maybe once a week. Be open about your feelings with them.
- Bring familiar items with you such as photographs, stuffed animals, and other keepsakes.
- Give yourself time to adjust and don’t expect to bounce back right away. New situations take time to get used to. Over time feelings of homesickness will decrease and you will feel more comfortable with your new surroundings.
- Be with other people. If you stay in your room by yourself all the time, you won’t feel any better and your study abroad experience will be a waste. Go out and experience the world around you- both with other exchange students and local students. Creating a home away from home with people you enjoy being around will be an immense help.
- Don’t rely on unhealthy distractions. Excessive drinking or spending all your money on material items will only be temporary sources of comfort.
Whatever you’re going through, it’s best to not go through it alone. There are always people around you who will be willing to listen to and help you.