Sunday, 3 April 2016

Feeling homesick

Feeling Homesick on a Year Abroad
Before I even typed the first word, I knew this post was going to be super difficult for me to write. I am really, really bad at opening up to people when something is up, and I haven’t even talked to anyone about this to be honest. So, this post could be a bit raw and a bit word vomitty, but bare with me. 

As I write this, I’ve just woken up at my boyfriend’s house in Surrey. We flew back to England last night for a weekend to see his family. It’s 7am and everyone is still asleep but this would be around the time I normally wake up in Germany so here I am. I did try to go back to sleep but I was mentally writing this post in my head and I thought I might as well put pen to page (or fingers to keyboard?).

I want to discuss homesickness. It’s something that I don’t see people opening up about often, something I never thought I’d post on my blog, and something that is important to talk about. 

I’ve been feeling quite homesick lately. There, I said it. I just did a 3 month stint of being away from England, which is the longest time I’ve ever been out of my home country and I think the longest time I've not seen my family. Or my puppy who’s pretty much fully grown now!

It’s been difficult. 

I’ve never experienced homesickness before. When I moved to university, of course I missed my family, but that’s not homesickness. I’m very independent and living away from home isn’t a problem for me. I didn’t think that living abroad would be any different.

But I think what’s personally making me homesick in Germany, is that I don’t just miss my home in Norfolk, I miss the whole country, language and culture. Also, whereas I was a 3 hour drive from home at university, I could still just jump in my car and go home for a weekend or book a train for the next day. This meant I didn’t miss Easter, I didn’t miss my sister’s birthday, or Mother’s day, or whatever family event was happening. I didn’t miss my old friends uni holiday meet up. In Germany, it isn’t possible to just go home for a weekend when I want to. 

Even though I might not even want to go home, I think the fact that I can’t just jump on the next flight (student loan doesn’t stretch to last-minute flights) is making it worse. 

I think a common misconception of homesickness is that if you’re homesick, you can’t be having a good time. The thing is, you might be having an absolutely amazing time, but you can still feel homesick. I think this is part of the reason it’s difficult to admit. 

I’m not having a crap time at all. I am happy otherwise, I have a fun and interesting internship, I live with my boyfriend, we go travelling when we can or we have days in pyjamas with films and freshly baked cookies after a night of cocktails with friends, or we go for walks and stop for Kaffee und Kuchen. In the sense of my day to day life, I’m happy.  

But you can still be happy, and have that aching for your home country inside you. It’s strange. 

Feeling Homesick on a Year Abroad

Something else that doesn’t help though is social media and the filtered view it gives us on people’s lives. If you’re feeling homesick, social media will probably only make it worse and you’ll feel more isolated. Personally, I’ve never seen anyone post on Facebook that they’re feeling homesick, or upload a photo of something unfiltered and post an honest caption that they didn’t do much today and they just want to go home for a bit. I do see the odd tweet or odd mention of missing Britain, but it feels different. 

I think a lot of people I’m doing a year abroad with or who have already done one, do feel homesick at one point. It’s just not splashed about on social media. I believe it’s important to be more honest about it though because it will help discount the feeling of isolation and that you're in this alone. 

Living abroad is so different to travelling. I’m going travelling for a month this summer and I know I won’t feel even a bit homesick. But when a place becomes your every-day life and you’re not just going to museums and going to bars every night before you go to a different place or home, it becomes less exciting and more routine, and you're more vulnerable to feeling homesick. 

The important thing to remember when combatting homesickness is why you’re having a good time. For me, I love jumping on a train and exploring a new city and just getting out. Over the Easter weekend Tom and I explored 2 new cities as well as our own city of Frankfurt and I had such a great weekend. 

It reminded me why I love living in a different country, and I felt much better in myself and more motivated. 

It’s a difficult subject. There’s a bit of a stigma around that if you’re homesick, you’re weak and I HATE that. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re strong, because despite the fact that you’re having a hard time, you haven’t given up yet. 

I’m sorry this has been such a rambly post, but it’s one of those things I just feel like typing and getting off my chest. I also believe that topics like this, along with mental health, should be spoken about much more. 

To make this post a little bit more useful, here are some tips for battling homesickness:

  • Talk to friends
  • Skype your family
  • Explore a new city
  • Try a new cafe in your own city
  • Drag a friend/s to some woods or a lake for a walk
  • Meet new people and make new friends
  • Write a journal
  • Cook your favourite meal 
  • Write a list of things you love about where you’re living
  • Book something exciting to look forward to

Have you ever felt homesick? How do you combat it? 

Hannah Lane

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