Homesickness is the distress of being away or separated from one’s family. It is caused when a person leaves home to settle in another place, this settlement can be permanent or temporary or of short or long period. The most common causes of this departure are either studying or working away from home, it can lead to difficulty in adjusting to the new environment, accompanied by a sense of longing for the comfort of home.

Assumptions around Homesickness:

It is commonly assumed that Homesickness emerges at only the start of your separation period and that it subdues in the first two or three months. However, there is no fixed time or appointment for when homesickness can strike a student. One might feel comfortable and happy at the start of the study period and after spending 2 or 3 months, one may finally start experiencing the symptoms of homesickness. Students may also feel their homesickness reoccur after meeting their families and visiting their homes during holidays and breaks.

For many students, abroad study comes as the chance of a lifetime to be away from home and live independently of their family. University time is expected to be the best time of a student’s life against this notion homesickness may not always be an easy issue to accept oneself.  Whatever, the case it is very important for any student not to disregard their feelings and always heed their mental health.

Know that it is normal:

Approximately 19% to 70% of university students will come across this at some point during their studies. While first-year students are the most vulnerable and may experience it more profoundly and frequently, nearly 94% to 96% of first-year students experience homesickness while studying abroad. A recent study discovered that one-third of all students have experienced depression or homesickness at some point during their university careers.

Causes of Homesickness:

Generally speaking, being away from home is mostly what causes a student to feel homesick. However, this is only a generic reason with many other reasons underlying ones. To help students better, understand and accept their feeling of homesickness it is important to highlight all the possible causes of homesickness:

  • Disruption of lifestyle

Moving away from your home which withholds your usual lifestyle causes great disruption to your ways of living. All the comfort that you have established in your home and space now has to be let go for a new place in which your comfort is yet to be found. This unsettling can cause mounting discomfort that may lead to anxiety and distress, eventually to homesickness.

  • Difficulty adapting

Talking about comfort and old habits, not everyone finds it easy to adapt. Letting old habits and comforts is not an easy task that everyone can do, some people are more attached to old lives and more rigid to change easily. Those who find it difficult to adapt hear the most convenient advice from their peers “Perhaps you should rather not go abroad”. Rest assured an abroad study is an opportunity equally deserved by all kinds of people regardless of whether being adaptive or nonadoptive.

  • Cultural difference

The greater the cultural difference between your home and study destination, there is a more probability of homesickness. Especially for Pakistani students with an eminent religion and strong cultural values, this cultural shock can be profound for those studying abroad. One might assume that this cultural shock may not be that intense for media has caused a cultural share, however, living this up close can be a challenging task.

  • Estrangement

It is the feeling of not belonging somewhere, especially when you are surrounded by a group of people you feel strange too. This feeling can emerge most when there is a great cultural difference between your home and your study destination. Following one’s culture and religion in a place where your religion is not common can be very difficult. You may find yourself sitting alone in your dorm while your fellow students are parting.

Symptoms of homesickness:

To better read your mental health and to identify when your unproductiveness and sadness are not laziness but homesickness. It is very important to know what symptoms of homesickness are and how they show themselves. Some of the listed symptoms of homesickness are:

  • Uneasy feeling
  • Dissatisfaction with one’s social or academic life
  • Having difficulty adjusting to college life
  • A yearning for family, home, and/or familiarity
  • Feelings of isolation
  • doubting your decision to study abroad
  • contemplating dropping out
  • Abstinence and indifference in activities and relationships
  • a disturbed sleeping pattern
  • feeling angry, nauseous, nervous or sad 
  • feeling isolated, lonely or withdrawn 
  • feeling overwhelmed, insecure, anxious or panicky 
  • feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth
  • headaches 
  • a lack of appetite or concentration.

Effects of homesickness:

  • Depression

Depression is characterized by a persistent sense of sadness and loss of interest or pleasure. According to doctors, homesickness can often lead to cause depression, as homesickness has similar symptoms to those of depression, such as frequent crying, sleeping problems, difficulty concentrating, and withdrawal from society. In some cases, homesickness can progress to depression.

  • Grief

Many students may feel grief for the loss of the comforts of home, and for the place, they felt that they belonged.

  • Obstructs productivity

Homesickness can lead to performance issues at school and university, this follows from a lack of interest in study and recreational activities. One will know that they have a pressing task or assignment to attend to but will not find the energy to tend to it. Intense homesick feelings can also result in difficulty focusing on topics that are not related to home.

  • Physical effects

When not attended in initial stage Homesickness can lead to Physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, stomach problems, a lack of sleep, headaches, and fatigue.

How to deal with homesickness:

If you set your intention of availing all the opportunities available in your university and be focused on your larger goal of attending the abroad studies, homesickness can be distracted. However, you can also try and develop connection and gain support from them in order to cater your homesickness.

Here are some ways you can cope with homesickness:

  • Remember, You Are Not Alone.

It is common for any student suffering homesickness to think itself alone in its problem. As have been said before, you might even feel bad for not being properly grateful for to opportunities. In such case, it is very important to remember that you are not alone a lot of students feel homesickness, too. Most of the time, they’re looking to connect with others who have had similar experiences. Many students do not know anyone else when they begin classes, so making new friends is a great way to better adjust to your new surroundings. Take advantage of this time by inviting others to events that interest you.

  • Browse the Campus and the Resources Available.

Exploring campus is one method to combat homesickness. Assess the location of the health clinic, gym, and library. You might also look for the best neighbourhood coffee shop. The more you become acquainted with your campus and its facilities and amenities, the more connected you may feel.

  • Consider new experiences to be challenges rather than threats.

Allow new encounters to be learning opportunities from which you may improve. Don’t regard your campus life as something to be dreaded, since this may restrict your willingness to participate fully. Try answering a question in class, asking for directions, or inviting your flatmate to lunch at the dining hall.

  • Genuinely Attend Class

Classes allow you to interact with other students and be socially pleased. Introduce yourself and strike up a conversation with the individual seated next to you. Find out how they’re loving their studies and campus life, and whether they’ve discovered any enjoyable local activities.

  • Become Involved

Pushing yourself to interact with people will make you feel less alone and will help you develop a community on and around campus where you will feel at home. Consider joining intramurals, clubs, organisations, religious organisations, or sports teams. A part-time work, on the other hand, can put you in touch with people your age.

  • Participate in Workshops.

Workshops for students are held on many college campuses. They might be academic or self-development related, such as essay writing and social skills development. If you are timid or shy this will be a very easier way to place yourself in an environment of people, where it is natural to interact. For example, research shows that social skill development workshops might help alleviate homesickness and provide another way to meet new people.

  • Consider doing some volunteer work.

Volunteering benefits others while also fostering a sense of connection or shared identity with others. Your University’s career office will most likely have tools to connect you with volunteer opportunities on campus or nearby.

  • Respect Your Emotions

Embrace your feelings and recognise that you are entitled to feel the negative emotions connected with homesickness. Some people find that writing in a mental health diary, sharing their experiences with others, or engaging in art therapy–such as sketching, painting, performing music, or dancing–helps them. Allow your emotions to be expressed in appropriate ways to use emotional management.

  • Establish New Relationships

Creating new acquaintances and ties on campus might help you feel more supported and connected. Invite friends to events that interest you. Alternatively, practise answering “yes” when folks ask you to get coffee or walk to class with them.

  • Engage People from Your Host Country

Reach out to other students who have lived in the city or country where you are attending school. Befriending people who are also international students from your home country, may add to your longings for home and may consequently ignite your feeling of homesickness Those who make friends with locals’ report feeling less homesick than those who solely make friends with people from their own country.

  • Reach out Adults on Campus

Connecting with instructors, academic advisers, or cafeteria staff can provide you with the adult presence you may be missing from home. An adult’s warm smile and brief conversation might help you feel supported and anchored.

  • Change Your Perspective on Homesickness

It might be beneficial to reframe your perception of homesickness. Take any negative associations you may have with these sensations and turn them around. Try convincing yourself that this yearning represents your profound affection for your family, friends, and background. Everything you miss will still be waiting for you when you come home.

  • Stop Ruminating.

Rumination might keep you trapped in the bad emotions of homesickness, leading to greater anxiety or sadness.1 If you find yourself thinking about home on a regular basis, consider doing something else. Spend the day cleaning your room, cooking something tasty, going on a stroll, or exploring your new surroundings. Practise mindfulness by describing everything you see around you and finding enjoyable hobbies to help you break free from bad ruminating habits.

  • Distract Yourself

Distracting oneself from emotions of homesickness might be good. Watching a movie, reading a favourite book, socialising, or focusing on assignments can all help get your mind off of home. However, denying your feelings entirely is unhealthy, so be aware when your unpleasant emotions become overwhelming.

  • Practice Healthy Behaviours

Being mindful of alcohol and drug use is important, as both can have negative impacts on your overall health. Additionally, the positive effects of sleep on mental health combined with a good eating routine can help combat homesickness. Often, a person may be more prone to feeling homesick when they are not practicing self-care.

  • Exercise

Exercising can help divert you from thoughts of home while also improving your physical and mental health. Consider using the college gym, or a neighbourhood studio, or participating in exercise courses. This opens up new possibilities for meeting new individuals or inviting college buddies to join you.

  • Avoid Being Too Connected to Home

Spending too much time visiting or calling loved one’s back home might exacerbate homesickness while also preventing you from meeting new friends on campus. Consider making a weekly video/phone conversation a routine, or restricting communication to a couple of times each week. The more you immerse yourself in your new surroundings, the less noticeable your symptoms will become.

  • Exercise Self-Compassion

Learning to love yourself and be more kind to yourself will help alleviate homesickness. Practise this by treating yourself with the same concern and care that you would offer to your family. An excellent place to start is to consider how you would comfort a buddy in your circumstances.

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