"Remember: there is no shame in getting help. Your mental health is as important as your physical health, if not more", writes Marcelo Goldmann. Pic: Pixabay.

Getting through the homesickness on your exchange year

Being far, far away from home feels thrilling and exciting at first. After a while, a homesickness might kick in.

Homesickness is something that most of us have experienced at one time or another. We usually feel homesick when we have been away from our home environment for prolonged periods. Perhaps the first homesickness we experience is when we are children and have to be away from our parental figures for the first time.

Homesickness can be similar to depression (only similar as it is not classified as a depression disorder) and it exhibits some of the same patterns and feelings. These include feeling anxious, being sad for no discernible reason, yearning for your home and your home friends, and reclusing yourself from activities. It can also affect your concentration and academic performance.

Homesickness can be very mild and just be an annoyance, but it can also present itself as a combination of severe feelings which can affect your mood, your relationships, and your studies. Thus, learning to cope with these feelings is of utmost importance.

There are various ways to cope with homesickness, and you have to find which way is more suited to your personality. One thing you can try is doing fun activities; things that will make you feel good and will take some of the stress off from being away from home. Try doing activities which are common in your new place. Take in the new culture and try to integrate into it as far as you feel comfortable. This will allow you to feel at “home” despite being in a foreign country.

Another thing you can try is making new connections and new friends in the new place you find yourself. That will also allow you to have conversations with people who are also homesick and by expressing your feelings you will get a therapeutic effect to your mind. Knowing that others are also missing home will help you feel less alone and more integrated to your new community. Additionally, by establishing new relations with other foreigners, you will learn more about their cultures and enrich your mind.

Being homesick is completely normal and you shouldn’t feel inadequate for feeling that way. If you feel your homesickness is extremely severe and you cannot cope with the feelings, you can try going to the student clinic Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS) and making an appointment to talk to somebody.

Remember: there is no shame in getting help. Your mental health is as important as your physical health, if not more!

Whether your homesickness is severe or mild, the thing you need to remember is that it ends, and knowing this will hopefully allow you to enjoy your exchange even more.

When your exchange comes at an end, you might end up feeling homesick about your exchange place after you have returned home. There is a silver lining though: when you do return home, you will appreciate it so much more than before. Rekindling relations with your friends and family at home will definitely help you overcome this new homesickness.

Marcelo Goldmann

A Doctor of Chemical Engineering from the University of Oulu. "Life is like a rubber duckie, you gotta keep it afloat to see its splendor." Instagram: @marcelogman

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