Student Perspective

Fighting Homesickness

by Benjamin Skye | August 9, 2011 | Student Perspective 0 Comments

For students leaving home for the first time, homesickness can be a major challenge.

For students leaving home for the first time, homesickness can be a major challenge.

International students leaving home for the first time face a vast array of challenges. Sometimes, these challenges may prove to be nothing more than minor inconveniences. On the other hand, some of these challenges can be particularly detrimental to the physical and emotional health of a student studying in a foreign country.

Learning how to adapt to the culture of a new country plays a major factor in minimizing how homesick an international student may feel.  Here are five ways students can prepare themselves to prevent being derailed by homesickness while studying abroad:

5. Make new friends.

Leaving home means leaving years of deep friendships behind. Coming to a new country and a new environment does not mean that you have to be lonely for the next four years of your college life. It is important to step out and cultivate new friendships. As a matter of fact, it is a widely held fact that the friendships you develop in college are often the ones that will last you a lifetime. Having good friends will provide you with the emotional support that you when college life gets challenging. For some students who are lucky enough, their friend’s families might even begin to treat them as one of their own. Being able to visit a local family for holidays is always a comfort and helps greatly in the fight against homesickness.

4. Keep yourself busy.

Warning: This is not a call for international students to turn themselves into workaholics that never rest. Some students use school and other activities as a coping mechanism to drown out their misery as they struggle with missing family and friends at home. This is not healthy. Nevertheless, students should still find ways to keep themselves occupied with balanced activities. Students need to work hard at school and become actively involved on campus. In addition, students also need to take part in leisurely activities offered at their campuses such as pick-up games, intramural sports, and other college festivities/celebrations/events.

3. Make plans for holidays with local friends

Holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) can be very lonely times for international students.  Most local students here in the U.S. often leave campus to go home to spend time with their families. Some lucky international students will be able to go home while others might get invited to spend the holidays at their friends’ houses. Students left in the dorm should take this opportunity to organize their own parties. Students can cook together, choose to go out for a meal or organize a game night. Find out who else is in town, and call them up to meet somewhere. The holidays are a time to get creative!

There are many useful online tools that can help you stay connected, such as Skype's video-call function.

There are many useful online tools that can help you stay connected, such as Skype's video-call function.

2. Maintain healthy connections from back home.

With the rising popularity of online social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and other online communication tools (Skype, Windows Live Messenger), the world is becoming a smaller place. The distance between you and your friends from back home do not have to stop you from continuing your friendship. Maintaining healthy relationships with family members and friends from home can be very helpful in times of emotional need. Friends and family from home may be able to relate to certain struggles that you have that local friends can’t (and vice versa). Being able to contact them to ask for advice or even prayer can be a great source of comfort and relief when things get rough.

1. Hold firm to your goals.

International students going abroad for studies can gain a lot from remaining highly focused on their goals. When the times get tough, it is extremely important for students to remember the reason why they are studying overseas. Having a deep sense of “purpose” and “calling” to study in whatever field the student is in can provide the student with a great source of motivation to keep working hard. By making it a practice to envision the finish line daily (graduation!), students can cultivate a real sense of inner confidence. Students focused on their goals realize the opportunities that they have to grow and develop towards their lifelong goals. Such students are not easily side-tracked and have the strength to weather any storm.

And finally…

…if you are feeling extremely overwhelmed emotionally or physically because of homesickness, do not hesitate to seek help. All universities are equipped with counselors who can help you work through whatever hardship you are facing. A good place to start is by visiting the Dean of Students for your university. He or she can help you personally or point you towards the right direction to get help. Certain universities have counseling centers on campus that offer free counseling services for all its students. Use the resources available to you. Whatever you do, do not isolate yourself from the community on campus. Staying connected will give you a better chance of recovering and overcoming whatever hardship you are facing.

Benjamin Skye graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in May 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Bible. He arrived at HSU in July of 2007 and has enjoyed every moment studying abroad. You can e-mail him with questions about this article and on the topic of homesickness at

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