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Reg Charity 1143560
Thought Piece

How to Overcome Homesickness

By Rianna
Successfully sending volunteers abroad for 10 years

It’s natural to feel homesick, we’re often used to being wrapped up in cotton wool or stay within our comfort zones. So, when we start to visit different corners of the world to do things such as volunteer teaching in Africa we will miss home, our family, friends and the things we are used to.

When you head overseas, you will see new faces and be around plenty of people, and even make lots of friends but you still might really miss home. Whether you’re an hour away or on the other side of the world, remember, you’re not the only one!

It doesn’t help to see that others around you seem to be holding up well, but everyone can put on a brave face sometimes. Don’t feel alone with these feelings, they can be quite personal to some people, so it’s best to understand that others will be going through the same thing even if you can’t see it. Here are a few tips to help manage those feelings.

Bring Home Comforts

It's a nice idea to bring a couple of things from home that you can help alleviate those feelings when you miss home. Whether it’s a small family picture you can slip into your wallet, a teddy or even a lucky pen – it doesn’t have to be big. This can help bring you back to home, soothe you and help you feel more at home.

Another tip would be to make your temporary home as homely as possible. Drastic changes can make us feel overwhelmed and by having something small to take with you and decorate your new home with can help with feeling more at ease. Don’t be afraid to personalise your own personal space, it is the one place you have control over and this can help with managing with your feelings of being homesick.

Speak Up and Reach Out

Being homesick can feel so isolating, you won’t see everyone around you battling these feelings. Don’t let these feelings keep you imprisoned in your own head! Get out there and speak up. Most of the time, you’ll find that when you speak up other people will do the same too. This is a good way to express your emotions and what you're experiencing; you’ll find that once you let it out you probably will feel a lot better. It also means that you’ll have other people to support you, so all in all a win-win situation! During my volunteering trip in Kenya, I remember I once cried in the bathroom and I was feeling so anxious about the new culture and my whole trip ahead of me. Once I plucked up the courage to speak to someone I had got close with, I then found out she also felt homesick – I felt less alone and listened to.

Connect with home by contacting family and friends. If you don’t feel comfortable to speak to those people physically around you just yet, technology now has made it easier to contact home. Buying a local sim card is the best way to speak to someone at home anywhere at any time. It’s always nice to speak to someone familiar and helps to keep you grounded. Your family and friends will also be looking forward to speaking to you and catching up with you about your experiences.

Say ‘Yes!’ Even If You Feel Like saying ‘No’

Keep yourself busy and pre-occupied. By doing this, you won’t be left in your own head so often and your mind will be busy learning and taking in the new surroundings. This can also help you look forward to tomorrow’s activities and help you settle in quicker!

When you're away from home, you may feel down and want to isolate yourself and reject any offers to do activities. Use this time to accept offers and explore. Explore your new surroundings, your accommodation and new people by conversing with them and getting to know others better. It’ll also help you absorb the new culture and try different things, such as local food and shopping in different markets and stores. 

Self-Soothe

For when things become too overwhelming, think of some ways you can relax and unwind. Self-soothing skills are something you can take with you everywhere and practice at any time. Think of some ways to prepare for overwhelming moments and what you can do at the time to ride those moments out. What is something you can do in the here and now? 

Whether you are around people or trying to get to sleep, self-soothing techniques can help. You don’t need anyone else for this, either! For example, try three deep breaths. When I arrived at my volunteer house in Kenya, I felt overwhelmed. The technique I used was to place one hand on my tummy and inhale through my nose, then exhale through my mouth. I made sure each breath raised my tummy to ensure that I was able to calm myself down and prevent a panic attack.

There are other ways to self-soothe. For example, reading a book, listening to music, cuddling your favourite toy or watching your favourite film. Think of ways that work for you that you can use when you need it. You can use these to take your mind off things and calm you down so you can then carry on with your tasks with a much clearer mind!

Other Thoughts

We've always got plenty going on, so why not check out some of our other latest news and thoughts? Or perhaps you're ready to gt stuck in yourself? If so, Apply Now to get in touch with one of our specialist trip advisors.

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