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5 things that helped me overcome homesickness during my year abroad

A wing from the window of an airplane flying up in the sky

While living abroad can be a transformative experience, it isn't always smooth sailing. It can sometimes feel like a roller coaster ride – filled with unexpected twists and turns. Homesickness is one of them.

Homesickness is a natural reaction when encountering a new and unfamiliar environment. You may suddenly miss the comforts of your home, your loved ones and your routine. That is entirely normal. It reflects the connection that we have to our home culture.
Feeling homesick often coexists with culture shock, which is when you feel all disoriented and uncomfortable because everything around you is different from what you're used to.

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Understanding Culture Shock: The U-Curve Framework

The term culture shock was first coined by anthropologist Kalervo Oberg. He came up with the U-curve framework to explain this concept. He identified four consecutive stages that individuals typically go through when adjusting to a new culture: the Honeymoon stage, the Culture shock stage, the Adjustment stage, and the Adaptation stage

The stages of Culture shock

The Honeymoon Phase

This is when you feel intrigued and fascinated by the cultural differences and similarities you come across. It’s exciting and you can’t help but idealise the new culture.

The Culture Shock Phase

As the initial excitement wears off, you are confronted with the challenges of adapting to a different cultural environment. It leaves you feeling overwhelmed and longing for the familiar comforts of home.

The Adjustment Phase

It is during the adjustment phase that you become more familiar with the local traditions and nuances. In this stage, you have a deeper understanding of the new culture, as you learn to navigate challenges and you might even find yourself adopting certain cultural behaviours.

The Adaptation Phase

This is the final stage of the cultural adjustment. This is when you start to gain confidence and competence in navigating your day-to-day lives in the new culture, as you have established effective coping strategies and come to accept and understand every aspect of the culture. 

Everyone’s experience through these stages may vary. Some people might adjust easily, while others might run into more challenges along the way. These stages aren’t always a straightforward progression; individuals may find themselves moving back and forth between these stages as they navigate their new cultural environment.

Navigating Culture Shock: Strategies to Ease Transition

Experiencing homesickness is a common challenge when embarking on a new chapter in life. It is entirely natural to be longing for familiarity. But the good news is that there are several effective ways to help ease this emotional experience and I will be sharing 5 ways that helped me ease my transition:

1. Actively engaging in social interactions

While stepping out and socialising is a great strategy, it can be tough, especially for individuals who tend to be introverted, like myself. Initiating conversations and participating in group activities might feel intimidating, and that is completely normal. What worked for me was taking things at my own pace and not pressuring myself to force interactions just for the sake of it. I focused on developing relationships based on my interests and what made me feel comfortable.

What I found the most helpful was joining international networks like the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). They can provide a supportive community, allowing you to connect, share stories and build lasting relationships.

2. Explore your host country 

Make the effort to explore the local culture, landmarks, and lifestyle. Not only will this allow you to form a greater connection and appreciation with your new environment but also, will allow you to make your year abroad more fulfilling. It is also a great chance to enhance your language skills and refine your communication skills.

Connect with locals for deeper insights of their traditions and perspectives through community events or simply engaging in simple conversations. As well as staying up-to-date with the cultural events happening in your host country. For example, Culturel Lyon posts regularly about cultural and arts events in Lyon.

3. Add small touches to your home

Taking the time to organise and personalise your living space can have an impact on your overall well-being, both mentally and emotionally. It is very important to make your home as comfortable as possible since it’s where you come home to every day and where you can unwind and recharge.

Consider incorporating your most-cherished items from home like photos that will serve as a reminder of your home and help you feel reconnected.

4. Create a routine


Incorporating a routine during your time abroad can play a significant role in diverting your focus from feelings of homesickness. Creating a routine for yourself that is realistic will create a sense of purpose, keeping you positive and motivated. As well as making your new environment feel more manageable.

What I found the most useful is having a weekly agenda, I personally use Google Calendar to organise my week. I also try to incorporate my hobbies in my routine. By creating this structure to your daily life allows you to have a greater sense of control and familiarity.

5. Keeping in touch with your family and friends

There is a common misconception that limiting connections from home may help ease homesickness. But in fact, maintaining regular communication with your family and friends can provide a sense of support and comfort. Not only will they provide you with encouragement but also, they will understand and empathise with you.

It is completely normal to be actively seeking them out especially in the initial stages of the transition where you will be facing a lot of emotional challenges. Embrace the support of your loved ones as they will be your support system as you navigate these cultural adjustments. 

Overall, whilst living abroad is a life-changing experience, it involves overcoming homesickness and navigating culture shock which requires adaptability, resilience, and a proactive attitude and mindset. It is also as important to be able to acknowledge that these challenges are a natural part of the experience and can be overcome with time.

Transform your feelings of homesickness and culture shock into opportunities with this guide for a more fulfilling and enriching time spent living abroad.  

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