Moving to a different country to study and live abroad is an incredible experience. From meeting new people, trying new foods, visiting new places, new experiences and discovering the local culture but sometimes it’s not always sunshine and rainbows and THAT’S OK!
A few weeks into my exchange I began to miss home as well as all my family/friends but do not worry it is completely natural and all part of the process of studying abroad. So here are some tips if you are ever feeling homesick on any point of your exchange.
Stay in regular contact with friends/family Staying in regular contact with your friends/family is the best way to diminish that feeling of being homesick whether it be a quick call or a long FaceTime. So far on exchange, I speak to my mum every day on the phone for a quick natter and it makes me feel better if I haven’t had a good day.
Talk to your exchange friends Talk to your exchange friends when you feel like this as they most likely feel or have felt the same way as you at some point on their exchange – it’s only natural!
Have things to look forward to! No doubt you’ll always have something to look forward with being on exchange! Having things to look forward to is key to tackling the feeling of being homesick. Plan trips away, I’ve already visited Russia, Estonia and Lapland. Organise social activities with your friends during your free time whether it be eating out together or even just a walk in the park.
Keep yourself busy Keeping yourself as busy as possible distracts your mind from being home sick. I keep myself busy here in Helsinki by keeping up to date with my university work here and work that needs to be completed back at Manchester University.
Unisport Unisport provides over 200 fitness classes and gives you access to gyms all across Helsinki – at an affordable price. Unisport has personally really helped me during my time here so far, I now enjoy going to the gym and regularly attend the classes they provide. Exercise both positively impacts both mind and health – so I believe it helps combat any feeling of homesickness.
As a Nordic Country Finland is no doubt very expensive to live and so it can be costly to even socialise with your friends in your free time but there are things to do in Helsinki (believe it or not) that are free – disregarding the small transport fee needed to reach particular destinations.
Visit the Cathedrals
Helsinki Cathedral The Helsinki Cathedral is the most impressive landmark in the city, located along the northern side, the grand building dominates the Senate Square. With its white pillars, blue domes dotted with golden stars and statues of the twelve apostles along the roof, it is definitely the perfect selfie spot. Free of charge!
Uspenski Cathedral The Uspenski Cathedral is a short walk away from the Helsinki Cathedral. With its golden tones and redbrick face, the cathedral symbolises the Russian impact on Finland in the past. Free of charge!
Sompasauna is the perfect spot for the quintessential Finnish sauna experience. The sauna is open 24 hours a day and it’s a fun way to spend an evening with your friends and if you’re daring enough jump in the Baltic sea after sweating it out in the sauna. Free of charge!
3. Nuuksio national park
Nuuksio is one of many Finland’s national parks, you can either reach the national park via bus or a short train journey (at a short cost). There are many different trails that take you through the scenic woodlands and lakes. There is also the chance to hire bikes, go horse-riding, visit a reindeer park and even walk an alpaca – of course this cost comes at a cost. Free of charge (excluding the transport fee and the optional activities).
4. Helsinki City Museum There are plenty of museums in the city centre with free admission but my favourite is the Helsinki city museum. The museum documents and displays the history of Helsinki as well as featuring personal memories and everyday life of the city’s residents. Free of charge!
Suomenlinna is a must visit and has free entry (despite the small ferry fare). Sumonelinna is the Finnish Sea Fortress perched on an island. The sea fortress is a world heritage site, unique for its military architecture. The island also has historical buildings, a church, museums and numerous cafes/restaurants. Free of charge!
Knowing I was a late arrival tripled the expected feelings of nervousness and anxiousness. As well as the daunting experience of having to pack up and then set up a temporary new home all by myself. Not to mention, having to sort all the administration papers, course enrolment, applying for residence Finnish residence all by myself as I missed the introduction week. As well as circling the city centre multiple times a day to find my next lecture but it was helpful since I got to see more of the city and different landmarks despite getting lost! Having tackled this single handily along with the help of the friendly staff at the University, a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders knowing I had finally caught up with my fellow Erasmus students!
With being a third year, I was nervous about leaving my already established friendships and connections that I have accumulated over the years at the University of Manchester. I attended a couple of the fresher’s events in the first week held by a society named ‘ESN Helsinki’ which I would highly recommend to anyone – it’s a society full of Erasmus students and you are welcomed with big open arms by every individual. Having attended my fair share of ice breakers and meeting new people in Manchester, I knew that I would not force any friendships despite my first few days in Helsinki being rather lonely, hearing crowds of people down the corridor partying (while I was tucked in bed), I let my friendships naturally take place with time. Now, nearly 6 weeks into my Erasmus exchange to Helsinki, I have made the best of friends. They spread from as close as Scotland to Germany; Austria; France and even as far as Russia! So, my advice is let everything fall into place and watch it flourish naturally. It took me a week or so to meet ‘my people’ who I see and hang out with every day – and I couldn’t be happier!
Cliché but deciding to undertake a year abroad at the University of Helsinki has been the best decision I have ever made. I’m excited to see what the next few months brings!