I go to China every summer with my mother, and usually I don’t feel culture shock or any kind of homesickness because, well, my mom was always guiding me around. However, I remember during my sophomore year of high school, I wanted to join a language study summer camp to brush up on my Chinese. That was my first time being away from my mother, and the first time I felt truly homesick. Now, I’ve come a long way. I’ve been to numerous summer programs, including one right now in Beijing, and spent a year in college at the opposite side of the nation from my parents. Of course, we still feel homesick from time to time, and that is completely ok –here are some tips to help you cope that worked well for me.
- Socialize! I have a tendency to coop myself up in my hotel or dorm and just mope. Especially in the beginning of your study abroad experience, feeling culture shock or homesickness as a group and not just by yourself is crucial. You have no idea how much it helps to hear other people vent about how nervous they are about the program, how they can’t get around town, how they are butchering the language. This lets you know that you are far from the only vulnerable person – there is really nothing wrong with the anxiety you are experiencing.
- Me Time. On the other hand, balance an active social life with some relaxing me time. Hit up Youtube. Go for a walk. Eat by yourself at your favorite dessert café. Having, say, an hour or two of silent, lazy downtime prevented me from overwhelming myself, especially when both the people you hang out with and the place you live in are still kind of foreign and strange to you.
- While we are on the subject of Me Time, don’t forget to journal! Journaling can be a healthy emotional release if you do have some homesickness that is neatly tucked away so other people can’t see. It can be a way to consciously appreciate your study abroad experience (“I saw Tiananmen Square today – it was fascinating because the place was so big!”), to rant (“Why can’t X understand it when I speak Russian to order my dinner?!”), to pity yourself (“I’m just really lonely right now…”).
- Don’t call mom three times a day. In fact, hearing a person’s voice too many times can trigger the idea that in fact it is very possible to be with that person again – or, to put it more bluntly, give up on study abroad and just run back home where you feel comfortable. When you subconsciously give yourself an escape route, that is when the real struggle comes in. You know you can’t go home, but if feels like you almost can just drop everything and run. That is what I struggled with the most during that summer camp my sophomore year. So, force yourself to limit communication to SMS or online chatting, and pick up the phone to call after a week, when you feel basically settled in.
Hope these tips helped! Let me know in the comments if you have any other advice~