How to Overcome Homesickness When Studying Abroad

When you go from one culture to another, there is bound to be a rough patch of something. It could be the fear of not knowing where you’re going, or not knowing anyone. It could be fear of not having enough time to go everywhere and do everything. It could be the fear of not being able to make a new home where you are. And it could just be homesickness.

A month into my stay in Florence, I’ve learned that you experience these feelings when you get to where you are going to be for the semester (or year, j-term, trimester, or quarter). I felt homesick to the point where I almost bought a return ticket home. Seriously– I was looking at Google Flights. I worried about my flight home, which was at that point was four months away. I couldn’t grasp the fact that I was in the place I had dreamed of; I could only think of home. I felt like I wasn’t getting along with my roommates. I felt like I wasn’t meeting people and I was just moping around in my room the entirety of J-term.

But after a while, I learned to feel safe and at home in Florence. After finishing my J-term class, I thought I’d share how I made myself feel at home in Florence. It might help you get used to your surroundings wherever you are. And if you’re going to be in Florence, you might as well try some of these things when you get here!

The winding streets of Florence never end, especially for a lost student! But don’t worry, all roads tend to lead home in this beautiful city.

Process Where You Are

First off, process where you are, no matter if you think it’s dumb or not needed.

It’s good to go through your thoughts about your new home. You may be confused and not know it till you process it. You may have also had some moments where you learned about something and you need to remember it. Or simply, you just need to sort out your thoughts.

Now you may be wondering, how do I process? Well, one very simple way is journaling. It’s not everyone’s jam, but it is a very good way of getting your thoughts out and tangling the mess that your mind may have made with the move over. Bring a journal with you or get one in place you are staying in. It makes a great souvenir and a great place for your thoughts to go. If anything, it’s good to have some paper for a grocery list or two.

Another tip for those artsy students out there, get a journal without lines and try drawing to process! As an art student, I find that this makes me very calm and helps me sort my thoughts into visual boxes.

When walking around Florence, you’re bound to find something mesmerising. Here are the arches the lead to the Uffizi gallery near the Arno River!

Walk Like no Tomorrow

Walking around Florence is one of the most freeing experiences I could do here. I don’t own a car here and I have yet to figure out the city’s bus system, so I walk. This has not only helped me figure out the street system in the city center of Florence but also let me into all the little quirks the city holds within its streets.

But how does this help fight those feelings of missing home?

Exploring your new home will make you feel comfortable and calm in your new surroundings. It makes you feel like you know where your feet are. You also get used to your surroundings this way, walking around and around till you found a gem on the third street over or the five streets down. Whether it’s to explore or to just find an ATM, walking your city may help ease those feelings of homesickness.

Now, walking depends on where you are and if you have the ability walk around. If you are unable to walk, try exploring via bus, car, or train. And if you can’t do any of those while you are there, try just exploring where you can.

Osepdale De Innocenti: Discoveries are all around Florence! I discovered Osepdale De Innocenti and its amazing rooftop cafe, all on a lovely Sunday walk!

Do Things!

Try new things! Get out of your room! Grab your coat (if it’s cold) and your shoes and do something! It could just be getting groceries or some coffee or going out for a meal. Find a place to learn how to make some food from your local country! I learned to make tiramisu and pizza (the pizza making was included in ISA’s program!) and let me tell you, I now appreciate every person who works their butt off making those dishes.

Find a experience and be open to it fully engaging in it. It helps ease the tense feelings you may have. And it also pushes you to see the culture you may have ignored while you are there. For example, while I was making tiramisu I learned about a common drink that was given to Italian children that were made of tiramisu cream and coffee. Our instructor told us that this drink is birthed tiramisu.

But upon asking more about it, he also said that many different kinds of tiramisu had been made before his drink and there were disputes about who invented it in the end. I would have never learned about the Italian way of tiramisu and also their weaving history in any kind of food if I never got out.

When I made tiramisu, I learned two things. The first: coffee and chocolate belong together. The second: I could eat tiramisu for every meal.

Reach out and Communicate

If all else fails and you keep feeling whatever way you are feeling, talk to someone.

Going aboard means not always knowing everyone. You may have roommates that you’ve never met in your whole life. You may be in a homestay and not know any of the native language. You for sure will not know anyone in your classes.

Whatever situation you are in, talking to someone is a good way to get used to the people around you and also to talk through your worries and fears. Journaling may not help you with what’s going on in your head and you may need to just talk it out.

Find your roommate and ask them if you can talk for a little bit. They’re living with you, they might just need to get to know you a bit. They are also going through the same thing as you– it’s likely that they understand what you are feeling.

And if all else fails and you just need someone to talk to, find out about counseling services in your institution. Counselors are trained to talk through your jumbled thoughts. If you can’t find anything out about that on your own, ask ISA about it! They are there to help you.

With ISA you get to go on excursions the explore the country you’re in! This photo is my favorite from our excursion to Siena and Monteriggioni!

Going from home to another home is scary and can be somewhat hard to get through. It can also be the best experience of your life. You learn so much about yourself and about the country you’re in. Don’t let the feelings of homesickness keep you attached to your suitcase. Tuck your suitcase away and let yourself become comfortable. When you finally feel like you’re home, it’s the most amazing feeling in the world. So, if there’s anything I could give you for advice; get out there and make some awesome memories.

This is the overlook of Ponte Vecchio. It is one of my favorite views of Florence!

Amy Harr is a student at Bethel University and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. She studied abroad with ISA in Florence, Italy.

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