Wednesday, 19 December 2012

How to Combat Homesickness (especially at the holidays)

I don't think I am at all qualified to give anyone advice, ever, but does that stop me from giving it? Of course not. Sometimes I find blogs with a preachy/advicey tone a little annoying, but I decided to give it a whirl today anyway, mostly because Katy of kaitastrophical asked me!

I get seriously homesick when I am away from home (even if it's just for one night), but I've managed to combat it enough to live in England for a year, Peterborough for another year, and British Columbia for the summer. So maybe I know something about it? We'll see. 

How to Combat Homesickness (especially at the holidays):

1. Try to remember that you are living a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one that you will look back on fondly for many Christmas's to come. 

This really only applies if you are, actually, living a once in a lifetime experience. If you are kidnapped, or in jail, or maybe just can't afford to go home, it doesn't really apply. If it's the first two, you probably aren't reading my blog (if you are, please stop now and get your life together). If it's the last one, maybe you can think about why you're away from home--maybe you are saving to buy a house (or a pony!), or maybe you're working hard at a job that will bring you closer to your dream job. 

If you're like me, though, you're studying or working abroad, and can't justify the thousands of dollars to fly home. If that's the case, remember all the reasons you moved away (for me: adventure! and a chance to prove that I was totally badass). Think about what you've done so far that you could never do at home (adventures! total badassery!)

2. Take advantage of the experiences around you that you can't at home. 

For me, it was visiting the Christmas markets, having a traditional Christmas dinner (complete with mincemeat pies, crackers, and mulled wine--disgusting), and watching British Christmas specials. There is probably something around you that you can't experience at home--go do those things. You will look back on them fondly when you are back home again. I made a habit of buying a Christmas decoration in every city I went to, regardless of the time of year. When I put them on my tree this year, I got to remember all my travels (and talk about them insecently/show off whenever anyone came over). 

3. If you have the means to, travel

If you can't be with the ones you love, go somewhere crazy and awesome so that the ones you love will see your pictures on Facebook and think you are totally badass. 

A friend of mine is spending her Christmas in Dublin while she's on exchange, and I am insanely jealous. No, it won't be the same, and yes, you will probably still feel a little weird and homesick, BUT you will also be doing something amazing and fun and that will make it that much better. 

4. If you don't have the means to travel, at least get out of your house

Whenever I was feeling really homesick, I tended to want to stay in my room, feeling sorry for myself and sending my (long-distance) boyfriend pathetic emails. I always put off going to the grocery store, exploring my town, or just taking a walk. And every time I did it, I felt SO much better. It's kind of like that rule about exercise: When you least feel like doing it is probably when you need it the most. 

That being said,

5. It's okay to wallow (a little bit)

In my first month of my exchange, I managed to get the entire series of the West Wing on DVD for like $50. Some of my best days were spent picking up an order of fish and chips after my Politics of Northern Ireland class and crawling into bed to watch several episodes end to end. The good thing about wallowing is that you have to accept how you're feeling, and by doing that it makes it a little easier to get past it (or book a day trip to Edinburgh!)

Josh Lyman got me through many a dark day

You'll probably notice that I didn't mention calling your friends and family? That's because it's really obvious advice and you really don't me telling you to do so. Then again, all of this might be totally obvious advice, but hopefully it helps a little bit. 

Before I left for England, one of the returning exchange students told me that spending a year abroad has some of the highest highs and lowest lows you'll ever experience in your life. At the time I remember thinking: "No lows for me!" But a few months later, I actually found it comforting to remember that it was part of the experience. And it gets easier. 


  1. yessss I love this. I'm coming up on my first Christmas away from home and as of now I'm feeling pretty good about. I've been doing some of the things you mentioned (like experiencing all of the new things around me) and it's been a blast. I think this actually may be one of my best Christmas's ever.
    And my parents sent me a care package today so that doesn't hurt either...

    1. Care packages are the best! I really hope it is one of the best Christmas's ever for you--can't wait to read about it :)

  2. You totally nailed it on the head with this, Alex. Sometimes it's hard for me to remember how lucky I am to be having the experiences I'm having. I really love what you said about study abroad, that it's "the highest highs and lowest lows". It's so true!!!

    1. Oh for sure! And the funny thing is that you can be appreciating the heck out of the experience and still feel homesick. For example, I was totally in love with the salt and vinegar crisps I found in England but would have given anything to be able to buy a box of fruit loops! I guess it's just about learning to take the good with the bad, but I admit it's still something I am working on :)