Several nights ago, I dreamt abroad was over and I was enjoying time at home with my family, only to wake up in my bed in Copenhagen confused, sad and relieved at the same time. I was sad I was not with my family, but happy abroad was not over yet. In fact, we are halfway through the semester, which is quite unbelievable. It seemed like the first two weeks we were here went by very slowly as everyone was adjusting to living in a new city, new classes and meeting new people. Then everything after that has been one big blur and I’m not sure how we got to where we are. It seems to have been going by too fast.
However, what I do know is that most people I have been talking to have one thing in common: the blues. It’s that point in the semester when the honeymoon period is over – everyone is settled into their classes, most friendships have been cemented (although it is never too late to make new friends!!), and we have all taken at least a few trips outside of Copenhagen. The excitement of being abroad has waned, it has started getting darker and colder, and most people are missing home, their families, and their friends back at their home university.
As much as being homesick is normal and it’s healthy to address why you might be feeling that way, I do have a few tips and tricks that have helped me manage my homesickness the past few weeks.
- Focus on what YOU love to do.
Is that reading? Going on a run through a park? Baking? Journaling? Watching a movie with friends? Try to take time out for yourself (which can be hard abroad!) and do something you love which you haven’t done in a while.
For me, this was spending a good 2 hours in a bookstore, browsing and finally picking out a book (The Goldfinch – highly recommend) which I have been devouring.
- Write a letter/postcard to friends/family back home.
A handwritten letter is always more personal than texting and can mean a lot to the receiver, while simultaneously helping you sift through some feelings and remind you of all the fun experiences you have already had while abroad!
- Find a new, cozy spot
Find a place that reminds you of home – could be a cozy café, the student library, or a park you love. Spend time there to really make it your own place, one where you know the waiter/waitress or always can rely on getting the same comfy chair in the corner. Having a routine place to go may help you not feel so lost in such a new environment.
I found a cozy café right across from school that mimics a living room – big, comfy couches, tall lamps, fuzzy rugs, and of course a big mug of tea. This place really makes me feel at home and is a great place to pop into to do homework between classes or to have a chat with a friend.
Take a break from technology for a little while – a couple hours to a day even, depending on how long you can go for. It’s important to stay in touch with people back home, but sometimes that can make you even more homesick – especially today, staying in touch has never been easier with instant messaging, snapchat, Instagram, etc. Being technology free may help you see the city in a new light, push you to go for a walk in a new neighborhood, or just be more aware of your surroundings as you walk down a familiar street. Give it a go, even if it’s just for an hour!
- Get involved
Try out a new club at school, sports team, or simply spend more time studying in the student library rather than your room. Being around like-minded people can help take your mind off things, and you may make new friends in the process! Even having just one routine activity can help you feel more grounded and get you out of your room every week.
I joined a gym here in Copenhagen and try to make an effort to go at least three times a week after class. I beat the afternoon slump by getting my endorphins going, and even though I workout alone, there are a bunch of other DIS students there. Simply being out of the house and surrounded by other people helps me not feel as alone – and gives me a routine activity to complete every week!
- Ask for help!
At DIS, there is a CARE team, made up of staff at DIS (not trained counselors) who are available to talk through any issues you may be having, including how to transition to life abroad and any feelings of homesickness. If you need more help than that, DIS can help refer you to an outside therapist/psychologist. Additionally, just talking to other abroad students may help you understand most students go through a period of longing to be back home/at their home university – you aren’t alone in these feelings!
Everybody is different, so not all the tips above will apply to everyone or even work for some people, but knowing yourself and what makes you feel better is very important. Sometimes I create a list of things that make me happy, so when I’m feeling down I can refer back to that list and find an activity to take my mind off my sadness. Remember that these feelings are usually temporary, and keeping a positive mindset can really impact how you experience the rest of abroad.
Additionally, here is a playlist of songs on my Spotify that I find calming and often listen to when I’m walking to class, along the canal, or through a museum.