Missing home is hard for everyone, and especially for international students. If you find yourself constantly wanting to call family or old friends, you feel irritated or shy toward the people around you, and you’re avoiding trying new activities, you’re probably experiencing homesickness in college. The good news is, these homesick symptoms are completely normal, even for domestic students.
Homesickness can make you feel lost, lonely, and even depressed, and it can be even harder for international students, who are also adjusting to language barriers and culture shock. But it will get easier - we promise.
In fact, we heard from fellow international students about what helped them overcome their homesickness at college. They said it might take a little time and effort, but if you are willing to try new things, you will be rewarded with the experience of a lifetime.
Here are six tips to overcome homesickness in college.
1. Take a tourist’s perspective
Pretend you’re on vacation. Exploring your new neighborhood with other homesick college students is not only a great way to beat loneliness, it’s also a way to discover the places where you’ll create new routines, memories, and places of comfort for yourself.
Love coffee? Visit all the best cafés in town. Miss your favorite hikes back home? Get out and explore nearby green spaces to experience the beauty of the place you’re living. Research the local food scene and visit top-rated restaurants. You just might find your new favorite comfort food.
2. Find a taste of home
A sure way to heal your heart? Your stomach! Find ways to enjoy the place you’re in by bringing in elements of home, starting with the foods you miss. Taiwan native and Adelphi Global MBA student Chia Wen Yu loves living in Manhattan for its opportunities, infinite places to discover, and, of course, the food. Because Adelphi University’s campus is close to Chinatown, she can find her favorite Taiwanese dishes, which help when she’s feeling homesick.
The same goes for Ibrahim, a Saudi Arabia native and Florida International University student. “It’s not difficult eating Halal on campus. There is a great restaurant right on campus,” he said. “There’s also an Islamic market nearby where I can buy halal meats, spices, Arabic breads, and the desserts I love and miss from home.”
India native and Mercer University MBA student Anchita feels the same way: “Indians have access to everything here. Even Walmart has a whole counter for Indian vegetables and fruits. Basically, it is impossible to miss out on food from home here.”
3. Reach out for support
Longing for home and family while being away—that’s the homesick definition. So, how can you feel better if you’re homesick? Make connections and ask for help from people who have experience with mental health and depression.
Sasha Losow, Associate Student Services Director for Shorelight’s Mercer Global program at Mercer University, suggests that homesick college students connect with a student advisor. Advisors are a key part of Shorelight’s international student services, and are a great resource for guidance and support anytime, especially if you’re feeling homesick.
“Your advisor would love to hear about your family and stories from home,” said Losow. “They can help you get involved on campus with a club or hobby you enjoy, and they can organize activities around your new city to make it feel like home.”
Having support available makes all the difference. “Being far away from home, sometimes I feel homesick. Sometimes there are things I cannot really talk to my roommate or with my friends about because [they are] way too personal,” said University of Kansas student Farah, an Indonesia native. So, she went to KU’s counseling services. “It’s actually really helpful. It makes me feel like I have less burden when I’m studying.”
As an international student, there are many challenges to studying abroad, but KU has many services available to help me feel more comfortable and to help me get better grades.” – Farah, University of Kansas
Even if your needs are more logistical than emotional, there is always support available on campus. Nigeria native and University of South Carolina International Studies major Oluwasunmimade’s mother stayed for a little while to help him acclimate.
After she left, Oluwasunmimade relied on the International Accelerator Program (IAP) student services team. “They helped me settle in my new dorm and get involved with the IAP through events and even a field trip to explore Savannah,” he said.
4. Help yourself by helping others
Any time you might feel sad, one of the best ways to feel better is to refocus on helping others. As a freshman, Liberia native and Mercer University student Bendu received so much positive encouragement from the peer educators of the on-campus counseling program, AWARE, that she decided to apply to be a peer educator herself. Now, she helps fellow students with time and stress management, as well as overcoming homesickness.
Mercer began to feel like home when I decided that it could be home. I was more involved with life on campus than I ever imagined, and through my involvement, Mercer became home.” – Bendu, Mercer University
Panama native and University of Central Florida entertainment management major Angely had a similar experience. “With the support of Global UCF, I’ve been more willing to get out there to meet people and build contacts. I’m very involved on campus,” she said. “I participate in a lot of events and help promote a culture of care by helping students who may be in distress, which is very important.”
Moving away from home and leaving behind your friends and family is a big step, so having that Global UCF support system right here to make me feel closer to home was a big factor in my decision.” – Angely, University of Central Florida
5. Become part of the community
Getting involved is another great way to chase away homesickness at university. “For incoming freshmen, the first thing I always say is to join clubs,” said Panama native and Louisiana State University student Jade. “That’s the most important thing … to make friends and to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people. You’re joining clubs that you’re interested in, so you’re going to meet people with the same interests as you.”
There’s so many different clubs where you’ll make friends in your major that you’ll be with for the next four years or more of your life. That’s really important.” – Jade, Louisiana State University
6. Put yourself out there
A simple greeting can lead to making new friends. Just ask China native and University of Kansas student Jinni. “I have two good American girlfriends that said hello to me when I first came to KU, and we hang out all the time now. I am also part of an organization on campus called Bridges International that throws a party for international students every Friday,” she said. “KU has been a lot of fun for me.”
Talk to an advisor today to learn how Shorelight student services can help you find your home abroad >