by Aimee Kinniburgh, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Netherlands
When moving abroad, so much of what you’re told is positive: you’ll make the best friends, you’ll experience new cultures, you’ll learn so much about yourself. Of course, all of this is true and already my year abroad is turning into one of the best years of my life. However, what I think people often miss is that whilst you experience some of the highest highs, that also comes with experiencing some of the lowest lows. This isn’t in any way to put you off going, I fundamentally think it’s one of the best things you could ever do. But given all of this I thought it might be a good idea to write about my experiences with homesickness and some of the ways I found to deal with missing your home comforts and life back home, in the hope that maybe this helps someone else feeling this way, or in the least act as some free therapy for me!
The first thing I would say about homesickness is it comes in waves, when you’re in the thick of it might feel like it’s always going to feel like this but these things always pass. I often find it might be because I haven’t left the house or because I’m feeling particularly run down that day. You won’t feel like this forever, before you know it you’ll be back to loving life, wondering why you would ever want to leave this city. I think it’s important to keep that in mind if you can.
Secondly, talk to your friends. Manchester does such a great job of putting you in touch with other people in the exact same position as you, who are most likely experiencing the same things that you are. Talk to them. Both of my housemates are also exchange students and I felt instantly better when I chatted to them about homesickness, it’s such a normal thing to experience when you completely up-end your life to a new place, but having people around you that can relate to what your going through is so nice in those moments when you don’t feel 100%. When I spoke to my housemates we decided to make lists of all of the amazing things to do in Amsterdam that we haven’t done yet and agreed to tick at least one off a week. Small things like this really remind you why you wanted to study abroad and the amazing things your city has to offer.
Building on this, get out and about! Sometimes the worst thing to do, I’ve found, if you’re feeling down, is to sit in your room on your own and do nothing. One of the best cures for homesickness is to simply get out of the house and go and see some of the sights of the amazing place where you now live. Even if it means going completely on your own, it’s so worthwhile. I spent an evening on my own wandering around Jordaan after they’d put up the Christmas lights and it is still a highlight of my time here. It reminded me of how lucky I am to be living in such a beautiful city.
Finally I think it’s so important to keep in mind that it is normal. Moving to a completely new place with a different language, culture, and way of life is never going to be without its challenges but with that comes opportunities to learn more about yourself and your resilience, and that’s an amazing and exciting thing!