In this blog post, I am going to talk about an important topic. A feeling that the majority of people who travel, will face at least once – Homesickness.
Homesickness usually occurs whenever we look back and remember all the good aspects and the comforts of our lives before moving abroad . Whenever I began telling my friends and family about my choice to go abroad and work as an Au Pair one of the most frequent questions was ”How will you cope being away from your family?”. I’m close to my family. Of course I miss them, but going abroad and traveling was something I’ve always wanted to do, so I decided from day one that I wouldn’t let any feelings of homesickness stop me from making the move.
Did I feel homesick, and when?
Homesickness slightly crept in after a few weeks. I can’t remember the exact time, but I remember after about two months I began thinking about home – a lot. I didn’t have an overwhelming desire to return home, Ireland was just on my mind. To be honest, I was kind of prepared for this phase, as previously speaking to my Local Coordinator and other Au Pairs, the 3 month mark is usually when some feelings of homesickness hit. But remember, everyone is different and this is just my experience. After a long video chat home, a coffee and a catch up with friends, I came out of the phase, with more appreciation for my friends, family and Ireland.
I have created a list of tips that I have used to help me overcome any feelings of homesickness.
Open up and confide. It is easy to just hide away and keep these emotions to yourself, but you would be surprised at how much a hug, encouraging words and a coffee can make you feel better. Your host family, local coordinator and friends are all aware that you have come out of your comfort zone, leaving your familiar surroundings and stepping into this new experience. They are here to support you during your experience, so open up to them and tell them how you feel. Whether you’re au pairing, interning, working or studying I’m sure there are people around you going through the exact same thing!
Now is the perfect time to create a goal and go for it. As Emma suggests in her blog post, immerse yourself in your new surroundings and set yourself a new goal. Maybe you want to start painting or learn a new language. Having something to focus on and work towards keeps your mind busy, and offers a sense of self achievement.
Continue doing something that you enjoy. Before leaving Ireland, I was slightly concerned about how I might change when I move away. I am quite active and enjoy working out. In Ireland I maintained a weekly workout routine and I was worried how my new life as an Au Pair would impact this. Therefore, as soon as I arrived, I signed up to the local gym, bought myself a new pair of running shoes and signed up for a 10k run. In the first few weeks, if I felt ‘uneasy’, I would lace up and go on a run. Now 7 months in, I still have a workout routine, so I still feel like my old self.
“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” – Frederick Buechner
Communicate with your family and friends. The beauty of living in a technology driven world is that communication is incredibly easy. On average, I would communicate home at least once a day. Usually to say Hello or Goodnight. At the beginning of my experience, I told my family and friends that I will not be in touch every single day for a variety reasons. The main reason is because if we communicate everyday, then we will run out of conversations. Therefore communicating every other day, makes the conversations more exciting. My main form of communication is through Facebook messenger and whatsapp.
I really enjoy receiving packages and cards from home and sending cards back. I use a UK based website called ‘Moonpig’. This website is great as it allows me to create and send personalized cards home quick and easy. As the website is based in the UK, the cards usually arrive home within 1 – 3 working days, whereas there is an approx. 3 week process if I post from America.
‘Packages from home offer a great sense of excitement’
Remember why you have decided to live abroad. You will have your own reasons why you decided to travel, but sitting around and thinking about your hometown is not one of them. Remember why you decided to make the choice to go abroad. Think of all the new experiences you have encountered, and the ones that are yet to come. Exciting.
Create a diary or journal.As a going away gift, my sister and my friend both gave me journals and told me to write in them. As I sat in the Airport, before boarding my flight to London, I put pen to paper and wrote my first entry. With a camera I am snap happy. I believe a picture speaks 1000 words. Over the years I have accumulated a few photo albums, that I often take out, look over and reminisce on times gone by. I have continued with this habit by writing a diary and inserting pictures of my experiences. I’m excited to show my niece and nephews, but to also look back in years to come, with a smile on my face, reflecting on this journey.
Do not make comparisons between your hometown and your new home. This is an easy trap to fall into. Instead of saying ”Back home we do this or we do that” say ‘‘Wow this is a new experience”. I know how easy it is to make comparisons in certain situations, but remember that you are here to experience a different culture. Take these differences and turn them into new experiences. Whenever I speak to my friends and family, I usually find that I’m not missing much and nothing new is really happening. ”Never look back. Only look back to see how far you have come”
Lets finish this blog post with some encouragement. Do not let the fear of ‘what if’ get in the way of your desires to travel. Think of the great opportunities you have received and are yet to experience.
You can find me on Instagram – beccawhi