ISEP staff know study abroad — including the ups and downs. Former Communications and Marketing Assistant Sarah shares her advice on how to manage homesickness.
My decision to study abroad was nothing short of impulsive. As a recently declared Spanish major, I figured I’d study overseas at some point, but I was only a sophomore after all. As someone who easily and often suffered homesickness at school not even two hours from home, I’ll probably never understand how or why I decided to apply for a study abroad program in Spain just two months away. I guess I didn’t expect it to ever really happen.
Well, it did. Here are a few of the ways I not only “got through” the semester, but thrived through.
1. When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Okay, so you might not be going to Rome, or even to Europe, but the same rule applies. Act like a local and do what they do! As soon as I discovered that leaning elbows on the table and throwing trash on the café floor were entirely acceptable behaviors, I was all too eager to act like a Spaniard. I couldn’t help but think, “This would never happen in America” –but that’s okay, and that’s the point.
2. Get involved and find your niche
At home in the U.S., I frequent a Protestant Church on Sundays. Even in a predominantly Catholic country, I managed to find a suitable place of worship and a Bible study as well. I was not only able to continue my spiritual lifestyle across the globe, I was also exposed to new ways of worship and a host of international believers just like me.
3. Ask yourself what you really miss from home
About halfway through my time in Spain, I created my own list in response that question:
- My friends, family and dog
- The clothes dryer
Upon further reflection, I realized that the benefits of studying abroad far outweighed how much I missed life back home. My favorite food, appliance and loved ones would be waiting for me at the end of the semester.
4. Go out and make international friends
Among my very best experiences in Spain was celebrating Los Carnivales in Cuidad Rodrigo, where I met several Spanish college students, with whom I still visit and keep in touch even five years later. These relationships stretched me to speak more Spanish than English (not the kind you learn in textbooks either). I also had the opportunity to help with their English — learning about culture goes both ways.
5. Become homesick for a foreign land
Saying goodbye at the end of the semester came much too soon. Study abroad isn’t forever, so take advantage of every moment! A country I once saw as distant and strange had become familiar and endearing because of my community there, a home away from home. I recalled returning to the U.S., “This entire morning was like an extended out-of-body experience. When was the last time I had cried this much? I couldn’t remember. Now I’m back and feel like half a person.” I would be forever homesick for a foreign land.
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An earlier version of this post was originally shared May 22, 2013.