I’m sitting at a table at Biscuits and Burgers in Covington, KY, surrounded by a group of sweaty, jovial runners, ranging in age from 18 (me) to 72 (my grandfather). We’ve just finished our weekly downtown morning run, and the conversation quickly turns to my upcoming trip abroad.
“So, Kate, ready for your big trip?” Jim asks.
“Oh, I’m so jealous!” says Karen. “Can you take me with you?”
“You got a thousand dollars to spend on a ticket to Wellington?” my mom asks, rolling her eyes.
“Eh, you can just fit her in a suitcase, she’s small enough,” Jim says, laughing. The whole table gets a kick out of that, even if it’s not the most original joke (sorry Jim).
“Now, don’t you forget to send us pictures, alright?” my grandpa insists.
I smile and launch into a description of all the things I have planned for my trip abroad. As I’m describing things, however, it really starts to hit me just how much I’m going to miss home.
I’ve never wanted my life to have the narrative of “this kid finally got away from her small town and everything that held her back” and blah blah blah. However, during some of my high school years, my hometown really wasn’t the most positive place for me, and I had a lot of issues with confidence and self-image.
I chose to go to school in California purely because I wanted to go into film and television, but living away from home for a year actually gave me the confidence in myself that I so desperately needed. Not only did I create a new family of people I care about in California, but my newfound self-assuredness helped me grow closer to my family in Kentucky as well. Sitting at this restaurant back at home, it begins to sink in that unlike when I left high school, I now have things that I really will miss, and people in my life that I really want to keep in touch with.
Armed with this realization, I’ve begun to strategize how I can bring the people I love with me while I’m abroad, aside from stuffing them in a suitcase (the TSA won’t like that for sure). If you deal with homesickness, these things will help you feel comfortable in a new environment and ready to experience everything your program has to offer.
Take a Memento With You
Obviously, you shouldn’t take anything that you would be really upset to lose. But having a small copy of a picture that means a lot to you or a little reminder of home can make traveling so much easier. The little guy pictured above is one of my Stuffy Buddies that I made when I was about 12. They’re super easy to make yourself; just cut out two identical pieces of fabric, fill with cotton balls, and sew together (button eyes optional).
Stop Listening to Sad Music
Yeah, I know you’re feeling nostalgic for home, and I agree that there are definitely some benefits to listening to sad music to help you get your emotions out. But if you’re listening to sad music the whole trip, you’re not going to be in the mood to get excited about studying abroad. I recommend listening to positive songs that get you excited to travel. These are some of my favorites, but be sure to find songs that fit your music taste:
“Cut to the Feeling” – Carly Rae Jepsen
“Stay the Night” – Jukebox the Ghost
“Dreaming” – Smallpools
Set Specific Goals for Things You Want to do Abroad
When I started planning my abroad experience in New Zealand, I was overwhelmed by the number of things that people recommended to do there. It was hard to feel like I was doing anything productive when my goal was “do everything.” So instead, I chose one specific thing that I wanted to do in New Zealand – see glowworms at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves – and used that as my goal for my first adventure. Once I see the glowworms, I’ll choose another goal, and so on, making everything more manageable.
Schedule Things to do with Friends Back Home
Luckily, with modern technology, it’s easy to keep in touch with your friends back in your home country. The key to keeping in touch is to schedule regular events or activities that you and your friends can do together on Skype or FaceTime. My friends and I Skype each other every Sunday night for our weekly Dungeons & Dragons session, which is a perfect way for us to keep in touch. If you’re not one for roleplaying, a weekly board game night works well as a way to keep in touch. You can also watch movies together on Rabb.it, a website that lets you stream movies at the same time as your friends and live chat with them within the site. Whether you use Discord chats, a regular blog, or plain ol’ Facebook messenger, staying in touch with your friends is going to be the best way for you to battle homesickness. Just make sure you leave time to make new friends too!
The world awaits…discover it.