Hi everyone! My name is Megan, and I am the Accommodation Officer at Langports Gold Coast. Just like Langports students who are spending time away from home, I have lived overseas for a while. Today, I’m going to share with you my experience about surviving homesickness while studying abroad and why it’s normal.
Homesickness and culture shock is a funny thing. It’s something we are all aware of but not really sure how to deal with when we are experiencing it.
Remember you don’t have to go through it alone, studying at an International English College has its advantages. One is that most of the people who work and teach you have also travelled the world and lived in other countries. Therefore homesickness is something which most of us can relate to and something which most students will experience at some stage during their time in Australia. Yes, I have also cried because I couldn’t understand and everything seemed too overwhelming and it’s the kindness of strangers and those who we surround ourselves with that make us dry our tears and keep on going.
Once you get your basic necessities arranged and the excitement of your new country wears off, you could find yourself moving through the stages of homesickness. Which is like being on an emotional roller coaster. Research has shown that our brain deals with homesickness like it does with grief and the emotions and stages are very similar. You are mourning your former life and not so sure about this “new” life just yet!
Did you know that there are 4 stages which you will experience?
The first is the honeymoon stage where everything is new and exciting and you are meeting new people, experiencing and seeing new things and tasting things for the first time (Vegemite or a Tim Tam anyone?). It’s a period surrounded by energy and enthusiasm about your new “home”.
This is just before one of those big plunges at the beginning of a roller coaster ride because you then enter Culture Shock stage. Suddenly everything doesn’t seem so exciting as the reality of your new world hits home. You will start to notice the differences in the values, morals and culture of here and “home”. If you are learning a new language or have experienced any prejudice this stage is going to be far more challenging and difficult. You could feel disappointed, confused, anxious, angry and really wanting to just go home.
This is the time when you need some good comfort food from home, which for me was vegemite on toast. I ate more of in my 5 years in Japan than I ever do here in Australia! You need to get a little bit of normal back into your day so connect with home (Skype, Facebook, FaceTime), and stream TV shows or radio or listen to music. Put some pictures up of family and friends.
Then get back out there and connect with your new friends at school, try to discover one new thing about your new country everyday and take a walk. Go and explore and discover your new environment. Nobody ever feels any worse after getting some fresh air and exercise.
By doing these things you will start to enter the adjustment stage. You have been accepting the changes in your surroundings and the everyday, starting to resolve any conflicts you are having and learning lots more about your new culture. You will be coping better and especially with studying, you will be starting to understand much more and feel like everything is connecting.
Finally you will reach the adaption stage, then end of your emotional rollercoaster. You will come to accept and appreciate all those strange customs and things us Australia people do and the differences between your home culture and your new one will be much clearer. You will start to realise how lucky you are to be able to have such an amazing adventure and still have so many equally amazing things waiting for you back home.
The most important thing is to not be at war with your new surroundings but embrace them and immerse yourself with them. Don’t resist everything otherwise you will miss out on so many once-in-a-life time experiences that make great stories to share with your grandchildren when they pack their bags on a big adventure overseas. Trust me, those embarrassing and terrifying situations will be something that you look on fondly and make you smile or giggle when you are back home.
With knowledge comes power so get back out there and live it!