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  • Homesickness and ways to cope

    ISSS collaborates with many campus units to better serve our student population. This week, we'd like to share a guest post from the Counseling Center.

    By The Counseling Center

    Feeling homesick can be very natural when someone experiences a sudden change in environment or routine. Living and studying in a country and culture other than your own can certainly cause that change and result in significant stress and isolation. Homesickness is a real issue and you are not alone. Many other students are feeling how you are feeling– it just might not be talked about openly and in depth but that does not mean you are the only one experiencing it. Homesickness can include sadness, uncertainty, anxiety, change in sleeping and eating patterns, feelings of loneliness, inability to concentrate, and/or a desire to stay in close contact with people from home. Sometimes it can also impact your academic performance negatively.  

    Homesickness can be a challenge for anyone in a new setting, but it might be especially noticeable for someone who is from a different country. Finding the right social circle might be one of the main challenges. Maybe you have found some people who you have been able to connect with, maybe you are still looking. It could be helpful for you to understand how you make connections with others and what your expectations are for these relationships. For example, do you prefer to meet people in larger groups or are you more likely to connect in one-on-one interactions? Are there people that you know that share similar interests as you? How open are you feeling to experiencing more new things? How does your culture play a role in interacting with others? And how might this play out in forming new connections? Answering these questions might help you figure out who you might want in your social circle and how you might try to connect with them.

    With the American Thanksgiving Holiday coming up as well as Winter Break, there is probably a lot of talk of "going home." For a lot of domestic students this means either a drive home, or a quick plane ride. For you it could mean a very expensive travel ticket, visa issues, and a much longer travel time. And for some it might mean not going home during the break at all. Some of you might be okay with this and actually prefer not to go home, while for others it might bring a sense of frustration, sadness and longing. Either way, you might be missing something about your country of origin -- whether it's family, friends, or a pet even!  Or maybe places that you would go to eat or just hang out. Or even just the familiarity and feeling of being around others that share your culture. 

    At a time like this, it might be useful to consider some tips that might help decrease the impact of homesickness.

    Some Tips:

    Stay Connected to Home: Keeping in contact with people who are important to you via phone, email, Facebook, Skype, etc. can be a real mood booster. Connecting with friends and/or family members who are supportive of you is healthy and can help with you feeling more connected to them as well as your culture and country.

    Form Connections Here: Balance with your level of contact with people from home with forming connections with others on campus. Research has found that international students who make friends with domestic students feel less stressed and less homesick over time.  You could also remain connected with other international students from your country of origin who might be a source of understanding and support for you.

    Use Campus Resources: Seek out organizations, clubs and activity groups (there are many Registered Student Organizations – RSO’s – on campus) that might help you connect to domestic or fellow international students on campus. Become familiar with campus agencies (e.g. ISSS, University Y, Illini Union, ARC, CRCE, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Counseling Center, McKinley Health Center, the Office of the Dean of Students, etc.) that might each address different aspects of your needs and concerns.

    Maintain balanced eating, sleeping, and exercise habits: This might sound basic, but it is often easy to forget self-care in a new environment. Getting proper nutrition, exercise, and rest helps you remain healthy in both mind and body and makes it possible for you to deal with any situation, including homesickness, more effectively.

    Explore new cultures: Exploring cultures different than your own does not mean that you are distancing yourself from your culture. The U of I provides an exciting opportunity to meet people from a large variety of backgrounds and experiences. By interacting with and learning about other cultures, you might be able to see your own culture in a new way as well as have something exciting to share with people back home!