Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Say No to Homesickness!

It's nine weeks into the semester, and you are tired.

You've taken to stalking your home on Google Earth and find it hard to hang up that Skype call. What used to be novel now borders on irksome, and somehow, blini/baozi/burritos have lost their flavor. "What's the matter with me?" you ask yourself. "I'm in Russia/Ukraine/China/Mexico/Thailand! Why do I feel this way?"

Let's face the facts: leaving home is hard. Different food, different culture, different amounts of sunlight... you've been uprooted, and everyone gets culture shock to some extent. It's the curse of the expatriate.BUT . You are not alone. Here are some ideas from former volunteers for getting over the blasé hump and making your home away from home more homey:

Ellie: I went to Russia and left my fiancé behind. To say I was homesick was an understatement. What I did is just dive into the culture. Learn to love the people and the area that you are in. Make yourself busy so you don't have time to be homesick.... Also, get to know and love your students individually. One of my students was often at school for a couple hours after her last class because of her parent's schedules, so we would just have fun together playing UNO, or playing in the snow, or just reading a book together. It was more like having a little sister instead of a student. It was a blast and by the time I left my school and my students...yeah, I was a wreck. When I got home I loved that I had my fiancé back but I was more homesick for Russia than I was for home. :)

Michelle: I didn't give myself time to be homesick! We were always out around the city exploring--by the time we left Voronezh, I knew that city like the back of my hand! Russia really became home for me. One thing you can do also is limit the number of calls home you make--if you're calling home every day, you're a lot more likely to miss it than if you're calling once a week or less. Make your home wherever you are and you will love it :)

Samantha: My family sent me packages with American treats that really helped. One of the best things was getting stuff that could be used for a Thanksgiving dinner. Our group all contributed some and we had a nice American Thanksgiving... as much as possible. Things like that saved me! The other best thing was to keep busy with the culture and learn to love that culture as much as our own!

Kallie: Go out and see the city!

Elizabeth: Buy yourself flowers. When I was in Kiev I was extremely homesick. To the point of coming home. Someone told me that if I bought flowers it would make me feel better. And it did. 

Jessica: I asked myself this question..."I miss home but..." It helped me acknowledge that I missed home but helped realize why I wanted to stay and why I came in the first place. The first month is always the hardest I hear but after that you start to connect more with the children and the other teachers and the city. I say don't make any decisions until you get past the first month or so. 

Karalee: Distract yourself with getting to know the people in your group, learning the culture, etc.

Anna: I made the choice not to get homesick. You have to decide if you are going to enjoy your choice to go and live in the moment or wish it away. I tried getting out and doing stuff. The more you sit around, talk to everyone and their dog on Skype and Facebook, and watch movies the more you think about home.

Areil: If you are homesick it is time to get busy! Dedicate yourself to getting to know your kids and the other volunteers and LOVE THEM! Learn all you can about the country you are in; learn the language, the history, get to know the people. The busier you are and the more you try to have fun, the less homesick you will be. Also, cut the phone calls home down a bit. Talk to your family but do not call them every day. More often than not calling home every day makes the homesickness worse.

Charlotte: The best things that helped me when I was homesick was to go exploring. When I was missing home and just wanted to sit in my bed and sulk, I found that exploring the city with the other teachers was the best way to overcome that. We discovered so many neat places and met great people. Getting to know the people and making friends with the locals, even the guards made me feel at ease because you had friendly faces surrounding you so how could you not feel loved and welcomed. Also, it really helps if you bring some of your favorite treats from home. My biggest problem was I got sick of the food so having a candy bar or even Easy Mac was a nice reminder of home and gave me a much needed break from the strange food. Bottom line is, the less idle time you give yourself, the less time you have to feel homesick.

Amen and amen. I would add two more things. First, talk to your group. Chances are, they're going through a similar experience. Let your head teacher or the iLP office know if you're having a hard time or a problem. Communicate!

Second, find a hobby, a unique somethin'-somethin' that this place allows you to do. Whether it be photography or poetry or kung-fu or salsa dancing, opportunities are everywhere if you look. A good hobby can keep you creative, happy, social, and sane.

Good luck!



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