Going abroad when you are volunteering for an extended period, can prove to be quite overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time away from home. While you will almost certainly find the whole experience to be exciting, eye-opening, and thoroughly life-changing, it can also be challenging for a wide range of reasons from cultural differences to being separated from your family or dealing with new cuisines and more.
When you have to deal with these things, it can cause you to feel homesick. That’s okay though, and you definitely will not be the first or last person to go through this. To help you overcome potential feelings of homesickness, we’re going to explain a bit about what it is and offer you some ways to manage it so that you can enjoy your time in a foreign country as much as possible.
What is Homesickness?
In basic terms, homesickness is an acute form of emotional distress or anxiety that is the result of feeling disconnected from the things you are familiar with, such as people, places, sights, sounds and even your regular routine.
You can begin feeling homesick because of numerous reasons, some of which include:
· Trouble adjusting to a new environment
· Having feelings of loneliness
· Feeling cut off from your usual support system
· Problems with understanding your new environment, the culture and/or language
· Seemingly lacking control over what’s going on around you and having a general culture shock
Homesickness doesn’t have an overnight cure and is just like any other vaguely communicable illness. There isn’t always a single precise cause, which means it also manifests itself in lots of different ways, such as:
· Continuously wanting/having to call your friends or family at home
· Being critical of everything that’s a part of your new environment and comparing it to what is known as “normal” for you
· Rejecting/withdrawing from the local social life you’re presented with
The good news is that homesickness can be worked on and you can get over it. When you can take homesick out of the situation, you’ll be able to view all that’s around you in a fresh and more positive light. As an individual, you will be able to call on your own, personal way of combating homesickness, but we have some of the most effective strategies that will serve to assist you in your quest to fight off these feelings much faster.
Try Local Food
Discovering some food that you like when you arrive is always a great way to guarantee that you have something to “fall back on” in times of uncertainty, whether it be in a volunteer home or at a restaurant or café. It's comforting to be able to get your teeth into some familiar foods, even if it’s just every once in a while. At the same time, it’s well worth trying some new foods because you might find that you quite like it and then that will give you a mental boost and make you feel good (not feeling hungry will also help your state of mind too!).
Take Lots of Photos
Thanks to the quality of cameras on smartphones these days, you can easily capture plenty of amazing photos of where you are along with places you visit while you’re away. Once you’ve taken these photos, you can look back at the end of the day and really get a sense of how amazing your new surroundings are. This can be useful for avoiding getting lost in your own feelings and thoughts and set you on a path to a more positive mindset.
What’s more, getting your camera out and taking photographs can help to keep your mind active. You’ll be so busy trying to get the best picture you can that you won’t have time to think about how much you miss home or the people who live there.
Take a Step Back from Social Media
Social media is one of the biggest aspects of our lives now, whether we like it or not. So, when you start scrolling through your feeds and see what your friends and family are up to at home, it can cause you to feel homesick or like you’re missing out. It could actually be making your feelings of homesickness worse as well. This is where you need to take some steps to focus on figuring out some content that will make exciting posts for your own social media when the time comes.
There are bound to be times when you see things that you are missing out on events and get-togethers, etc., at home, but when they see what you are doing, they will wish they signed up to volunteer and be part of your overseas adventures too!
Make a Routine for Yourself
Once you have arrived and figured out what’s going on from day-to-day, you will find it much easier to work out a daily routine. For example, you won’t simply be waking up at the same point each morning and having breakfast with everyone, you will also have the opportunity to incorporate something exciting, or that heightens your interest.
This will be personal to you, but popular ideas include:
· Meeting up with the other volunteers you have made friends with and going for a walk
· Keeping a diary and writing about your experiences
· Doing some form of exercise such as yoga or jogging
Studies have shown that when people feel more in control they suffer fewer bouts of homesickness stress than those who do not feel in control.
Practice Positive Thinking
Homesickness, just as with almost any other anxiety, feeds on negative thoughts. If you find yourself thinking things like "no one likes me here" or “I’m so far away from home”, then it’s time to start working on your positive thinking. When you write in your diary (see above) only allow yourself to jot down positive thoughts, and concentrate on ways to turn negative thoughts on their head, such as "I have a common interest with that person, let’s talk and build on that” or “I’m really making a difference with the programme I am on and I’ll be making a lasting positive impact on many people’s lives.”
Talk About Your Feelings
You can be sure of the fact that your feelings of homesickness are shared by many, many people the world over. You aren’t the first and you will absolutely not be the last either. There may come times when you feel as though there’s mounting pressure to be positive about your time away from home, especially when you think that you have to put on a brave/happy face around others and when you talk to loved ones back home. Regardless, there’s simply no embarrassment whatsoever in getting homesick.
All sorts of people will go through some level of homesickness at some point in their lives, and the worst thing anyone, including you, can do, is to try to bottle it up and ignore it as this won’t make it go away. While you don’t want to be walking around feeling down constantly, you are perfectly within your rights to express your feelings to someone you feel you can confide in. They may well have experienced something similar and can offer some sound advice you can use to your advantage.
It’s important to get support for homesickness so that it doesn’t hold you back; after all, it is a real anxiety issue. Remember to deal with it in your own time and not gallop through it as quickly as you can because this process can’t be rushed.
It’s perfectly fine to miss home, but you shouldn’t let that take anything away you’re your experiences, so whether you feel you might benefit from following some of these methods of dealing with homesickness or you find your own approach, just do what you can to make your time so full of fond memories that you’ll look back on your adventure with happiness and a beaming smile!
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