Beating the Homesickness Blues


Greetings to everyone reading this! It’s almost impossible to find a person who doesn’t know what homesickness is, but in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, it is the sensation a person experiences when they miss their home. From my previous posts, you may already know that I’m a Japanese student currently studying in the U.S., and it has led me to the same struggles many of you might experience. Although I am happy with my life at the moment, things weren’t as bright all the time, and I’ve had my share of challenges when missing home. I’ll tell you about my problems and how I managed to address them as I was battling my homesickness. 

It is a Hidden Enemy

Although a lot of people think that you become homesick just once you travel to a different location, it has many manifestations and often can appear immediately or months after. I’ve previously written about different stages of cultural adaptation and how it slowly leads to shock once the new culture clashes with the past. At first, I didn’t experience any issues about leaving home, even vice versa because my family is quite traditional. As a result, I was glad and went through the Honeymoon period where everything was incredibly fun and interesting about it. I’ve always dreamt about going to the U.S., and I hope to experience the joy of meeting new people and encountering so many unusual things. Nevertheless, it didn’t last long for me. 

First, I went through the Honeymoon period where everything was incredibly fun and interesting about it.

As a few months went by, I started to feel a creeping sensation of culture shock that made me very worried and, as a result, quite homesick. I didn’t really expect that, after months of observation, I would feel uncomfortable. That’s when the pressure of my situation truly sunk in and I started to miss my home terribly. So, whenever you’re thinking that you may have gone through without this phase at all, pay attention to yourself: it’s very well possible that you will wake up really exhausted one day and wish to see your friends or siblings. The worst part is that this feeling cannot be shaked easily and it attaches itself to you like a leech. 

Then, I started to feel a creeping sensation of culture shock.

My Experiences with Homesickness: Main Reasons

I have several reasons to suffer from this severe challenge. Here are the main ones: 

  • No one to turn to. At first, I thought that I would not need anyone from Japan because so many students were forming clubs and alliances. However, I later realized that a lot of such relationships don’t last long. Even more so, I didn’t always have people who were the best for me. It sometimes put me in several problematic situations even though I didn’t face any bullying.
  • No family in sight. Although I thought that my parents would be more of a bother than a support, I later understood that everything was entirely different. I missed my mother’s breakfasts, my dad’s evening recollections of the events, and the joy of watching movies on rare occasions. I also encountered some kind of guilt: I thought about my parents not wanting me to go and that I decided to go to the U.S. regardless. I think it’s important to talk about such feelings because many people in their 20’s are experiencing separation from their parents but don’t know how to voice it. 
  • Different culture. I know that I’ve talked about it already, but it is one of the main reasons people suffer from homesickness. When individuals see the differences between their home and host country, they can feel psychological discomfort that can even make it difficult for them to go through their general routine. I disliked people’s behavior, gestures, felt uncomfortable due to different physical proximity norms, and even how they treated me in different situations. 
  • Lack of personal place. Typically, you can say that your dorm room is your home, but it requires some time to get adjusted to. Also, I didn’t feel that I owned my room because I had another girl living with me. Although we got along perfectly fine, I still felt as if I couldn’t do anything because my roommate could walk in. I couldn’t even cry because I was ashamed. 
  • Psychological issues. Although homesickness isn’t a disorder of any kind, it can have devastating consequences for people who face it. I had higher levels of anxiety than usual as I’m a pretty calm person. I have learned that many individuals with homesickness can develop depressive moods and troubles concentrating on their everyday tasks. 

Several Facts about Homesickness

Here are some interesting facts and statistics about homesickness and why it emerges. 

  1. More than half of the population have faced homesickness during their lives. According to WebMD, between 50% and 75% have suffered from homesickness at least once in their lives. 
  2. Personality affects its severity. If you are high on neuroticism and anxiety, you are likely to experience homesickness more than people with low scores in these criteria. If you’re introverted, you can also appear homesick. Those students or individuals who are less independent also can behave more insecure and miss the well-controlled environment of their homes. 

Between 50% and 75% students have suffered from homesickness at least once in their lives

  1. Conditions matter. It’s undeniable that people who move to a place they actually want to be in are less stressed and feel homesick less often. If you were sent to a camp or school you hate, you will feel overwhelmed and have trouble adapting to it. The climate or even lack of physical comfort such as a bad hotel room may spoil an otherwise good trip or move to a new place. 
  2. Routine changes. A lot of people suffer because their typical lifestyle has changed dramatically, and the inability to quickly fit into the new behavior and patterns, find new supermarkets, decide when to go to sleep or wake up, and meet one’s neighbors can cause a certain level of stress for a person. 
  3. Students are most affected. About 94% of students have suffered from homesickness. It’s logical: they experience the highest levels of change that they have to face and adapt in the quickest way possible. I wasn’t affected the most. Some of my friends even decided to return home because they felt so sad without their families. 

How to Overcome Homesickness

Although I struggled with getting back on track, I found strategies to reverse the damage done to my mental state. Here are some steps you can make to improve your well-being and make sure that you miss your home just a little bit. 

Beating Homesickness

Keep yourself busy

Don’t let yourself dwell on the crisis and sit in front of your computer crying to a sad melodrama. Join a club, study hard, visit a party, find a great restaurant you can like. Of course, don’t hide your feelings but try to not be too much buried in them. Doing something always helps. 

Find new friends

 No one can replace your parents, but you can find your own support group that will help you find your own place in this world. Don’t make yourself befriend someone who doesn’t suit you. Instead, look for like-minded people who will like you without any pretenses. 

Get contact with your home

Technology helps people to get comfortable with their friends and family and call them even daily. Send the people you miss some nice parcels and letters to feel more connected. Use Zoom, Skype, or any other app to spend time together. 

Don’t forget about regular visits

 If you have traveled abroad, it can be expensive to travel back home often. But try to visit your home at least a few times a year on holidays or work a “third” location for yourself and your family to go to for a vacation together. 

Take things from your home with you

 You don’t need to leave all your things behind. You can take your family stuffed toy with you (if you are ready for a few side glances from your roommate) or your favorite comics that will remind you of your life at home. Take your blanket that always calms you down or something like it. 

Create your safe space

Physical comfort is always necessary, so you can easily start reorganizing your room or apartment into a cozy place for you to relax in. Add posters, buy carpets, find used mugs that you adore. One of the best steps I made as a newcomer to the U.S. was visiting flea markets and looking for funny or nice things to buy. Sometimes I had nothing. In other cases, I bought entire boxes of old photographs, a radio, a picture book, and a doll. Alright, not every choice was a wise one, but it saved my mental health, so I guess it was worth it. 

Reach out for help

 A lot of people still feel that going to a psychologist or psychiatrist is a bad idea, but I believe that it is the best decision I have ever made. A friend of mine was severely depressed because of her homesickness, and she asked for help from a local counselor. In a few months, she completely forgot about the previously encountered issues. 

Know your triggers

 Sometimes, everything works completely fine until we see something that reminds us of home and pushes our buttons. To avoid it, think about the events (perhaps, your country’s holiday) or some people (seeing couples if your partner is in another country) that can make you unhappy. Think about healthy ways to avoid deterioration of your state and take care of yourself.

Avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms

 Don’t drink or do drugs to improve your mood. Research shows that the short-term improvement does little with the long-term effects of substance abuse. It’s easy to fall through the cracks if you are already not in the best place. Choose better options. 

You Will Feel Better

It is normal to feel sad and want to go back home. If the feeling is unbearable or if your change of a life isn’t something necessary, you can leave it all behind and return back. Always keep your priorities straight. Your health, your family, and your future are the critical objectives you should rely on. Just remember that you are important, and even when you live in a different part of the world, people who love you are always with you. 

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Akari Saito
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Akari is an undergraduate Marketing student in New York. Though born in Tokyo, Akari’s heart belongs to the Big Apple. In her free time, she enjoys drawing anime and cartoons, reading, and learning as much as she can about whatever niche topic she’s interested in at the moment. She never gets tired of enjoying her collection of Dragon Ball characters.