Traveling thousands of miles to a new country opens doors to more opportunities, but also puts an international student far away from his/her home, country, and culture. For international students, homesickness could be powerful because they need to cope with changes in place, culture, life style, language, academic expectation, etc. It is understandable that they may feel overwhelmed, and start to miss the life at home where things are more familiar and certain.
If you experience homesickness, you may feel lonely, sad and "left out". You may also feel the pressure to fit in, but find it hard to go out to meet new people. In this situation, it is important to find ways to take good care of yourself, both physically and mentally:
→Tip 1 - Stay Connected. It may sound cliché, but it is truly effective. For international students, building a network on/off campus usually brings a sense of belonging, safety, and support. You may try to talk to senior international students in your department about how they managed their transition. You may also join organizations, clubs, or student groups of your home culture, or of other topics you are interested in. Language and cultural knowledge could be potential barriers, but there are programs on campus to help improve English and understand American culture. You may find it challenging to do these things at first, but as you know more people and places on campus, you may feel more "at home".
Here are a few links to the resources on campus:
- Improve your English: http://www.cce.umn.edu/Minnesota-English-Language-Program
- Finding a student organization: http://sua.umn.edu/groups
- Mapping what is happening on campus: https://events.umn.edu
→Tip 2 - Talk to Someone. You may find it easy to isolate yourself in a new culture. However, if you find the homesickness is really getting in your way, the best way is to talk to someone about it. Sometimes, talking to your peers with similar experience may help you see you are not alone. You may also talk to a counselor at UCCS, or join a group where you can share your experience with other international students at UCCS.
You are always welcome to talk to a counselor. Here is how you can get started:
- UCCS Counseling Appointments: http://www.uccs.umn.edu/appointments.htm
- International Students Support Group: http://www.uccs.umn.edu/group_current.htm
→Tip 3 - Keep up your health. Without good physical health, your emotional stress will be even harder to cope with. Make sure you eat and sleep well. A few things you can try: finding a grocery store you like; planning your meals ahead; keeping enough time aside for sleep and rest; and consulting with a physician if you don't feel well.
Homesickness is not a sign of weakness; neither is seeking help when you are going through it. Managing homesickness is never easy, but it could be made easier if you don't have to deal with it by yourself.