It’s been about two months since I arrived in St. Petersburg to study abroad. I’ve honestly no idea where the time has gone, but even still, the three months remaining seem to stretch so far ahead of me. Some days are definitely worse than others when it comes to homesickness, and having been away for so long, I’ve become well acquainted with the feeling. As such, I wanted to give a couple of tips from my own experiences these past two months on how to combat homesickness and make sure you’re enjoying your time abroad.
Before I jump right in, a caveat: my advice may or may not work for you. Everyone feels homesickness in varying degrees, and everyone copes with homesickness in different ways. I’ve had a decent amount of practice at being away from home; I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and my family still lives there. It’s a seven hour drive to visit them, and my first semester of freshman year felt a lot like being abroad. I was homesick all the time until I made solid friends and became familiar with our campus.
So here’s the first tip:
1. Fight homesickness by trying to make your city/university your home
Homesickness is caused very much in part by feeling strange, foreign, and uncomfortable in a new environment. Try finding a coffeeshop nearby your dorm that you really like, or map out a route through a nearby park to go running. Put up a few pictures above your desk. Bring a favorite book or two to keep next to your bed. Building a routine and personalizing your room both go a long way in making a new environment less frightening.
2. Indulge in some Netflix when you’re down
If you really don’t feel like going out, it’s okay to stay in and watch some Netflix. There’s nothing like your favorite show to cheer you up, but remember, your study abroad experience may not be the best time to spend three weeks binge watching all of The Office.
3. Be a tourist!
You are abroad! Go explore the country you’re living in! You can and should go explore the local sights, order the traditional foods, take touristy photos of the castles and cathedrals and countryside. Go to the museums. Listen to the street musicians outside the metro station. Buy a keychain at a souvenir shop.
If you know too much free time will cause you to start missing home again, plan some outings for yourself. Find a friend or two at your university who wants to go out exploring with you. There’s plenty to see and do while you’re abroad, and if you don’t make the most of it, you’ll have a lot of regret at the end of the semester. And trust me, I feel a lot less homesick when I’m walking down the gorgeous streets of St. Petersburg than when I’m cooped up in my dorm room.
4. Get off social media
Hear me out. Being abroad can be lonely. It can be scary. There will probably be at least one day where you just curl up in bed and desperately wish to be home again. It’s comforting to scroll through Facebook or Instagram or whatever else you use, and I know you want to stay in contact with your friends.
But all things in moderation.
Spending hours on social media stalking everyone back home — seeing what food they’re eating, where they’re going on the weekends, pictures from late night Whataburger runs — it’s not going to help you feel better. You’ll just end up missing home even more than you did to begin with, and you’ll miss out on opportunities to enjoy your time abroad.
Instead of leaping for your phone every time you get a new notification, try calling a friend and talking for an hour or two. The interaction will be way more comforting than feeling left out, and they’ll want to hear all of your stories too!
Once again, this isn’t guaranteed advice. There are still times where I wish the end of the semester were closer so I could go home again, but I think I’ve been getting better and better at appreciating the beauty of St. Petersburg and enjoying the time I’m getting to spend here. Studying abroad is so worth it, and if you haven’t considered it before, you should look into doing it. Just be prepared for the homesickness, make a plan on how to push through, and make sure you have the best experience possible while abroad!