Home sickness is defined as distress caused by separation from a specific home environment.
Students who join universities and colleges or those who go abroad are affected by homesickness. As they are exposed to different environments and new people they are sometimes overcome by homesickness. Some students don’t get homesick, but there are others who are overwhelmed by the new experience.
The main signs and symptoms of homesickness are: Nostalgia, grief, depression, anxiety, topophilia, adjustment disorders, withdrawal, sadness, claustrophobia, and agoraphobia.
Homesickness is felt more by the people who are furthest from home for example international volunteers, international students, international workers and expats. Homesickness can strike at any moment, one week into the volunteer abroad work or a month later. It’s natural for volunteers to become homesick as they are many miles away from home and they can’t go back as soon as they want.
Here are a couple of remedies to homesickness:
Keep in touch
Keeping in touch with family and old friends who are at home, is one of way of keeping homesickness at bay. The volunteers can use the following to keep in touch: emails, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, calling and texting. Most of these resources are available in many parts of the world unless the volunteer is in remote areas. The quality of the resources varies depending on the location of the volunteer for example the speed and availability of internet. When feeling lonely and homesick the volunteer could try and communicate with those who are back at home. Talking to them will lift up the spirits of the volunteers. Finding out things that are going on at home will help the volunteer feel connected to their families. Although talking to family and friends is great it should be done to a minimum as too much communication with them will lead the volunteer to feel more homesick. Keeping in touch should be done less and less until the volunteer is used to the new place.
Carry something from home
Carrying something from home could help the volunteer overcome homesickness. Carry things that have some sentimental value and could remind the volunteer of home. The volunteer can carry developed photos, a pillow from home, perfume or cologne of a loved one, favorite movies, music, stuffed animals and an old scrapbook. Having these familiar things will make the place where the volunteer is staying more comfortable. These small mementos remind the volunteers about home and make him or her happy.
Making new friends is a great way to get over homesickness. While the volunteer is abroad, s/he should make friends with the local people and other volunteers. As there will be other volunteers working with them, they will help to adjust to the new environment. The other volunteers will help to form a support network whereby they will help solve common problems. The volunteer will be able to talk about his or her feelings about missing home and the others will help them. The other volunteers will cheer up the homesick volunteer. Constantly meeting new people will take the volunteers mind away from home and help to embrace the new environment. Meeting new people will help to fit into the new culture. Spending time with other people cures homesickness.
Volunteers feel homesick the most when they are idle. When they feel homesick the volunteer should look for activities to keep their minds engaged. The volunteers should focus on the volunteer abroad work and look for ways to be more productive. They could stick to a schedule that keeps their minds occupied. When the volunteers are not working, they look for other interests and hobbies that will keep them busy. They should try to keep up with their hobbies while they are abroad. They should take this opportunity to make the most of their stay by visiting new places and finding out new experiences. The busier the volunteer is the less time s/he will be feel homesick.
Written and contributed by Zablon