Foreign education arms you with many things; one of which is the dreaded homesickness. New city life, new culture, different climatic conditions often get to Indian students when they go abroad, leading to feelings of insufficiency, loneliness and depression.
Homesickness is a predictable problem faced by most Indian students going to study abroad at one point or another. It may occur at the beginning of the session or even later during the year of stay. Homesickness will pass. Be patient. Give it at least two weeks. While it is easy to get carried away by these feelings, what is important is to not let it get to you. If you are feeling sad, explain what is happening to your friends. Do not hide in your room; if you do, the homesickness will only worsen. Find your counselor staff with whom you can talk about homesickness or other problems. Homesickness might be made worse by frequent, long telephone calls home. Most homesick students feel more homesick after a call home than they did before they picked up the phone. Try to limit yourself to one call home every week. The sooner you integrate into the university experience, the sooner your homesickness will pass.
Says Robby Valecha, an MBA from Australian catholic university, “I didn’t let such thoughts cross my mind. Studying abroad was a dream and when it really happened, I could not wait to start the journey. I enjoyed my air ride to Australia. Throughout my trip I was in touch with my parents and siblings so it was seldom that I felt homesick. I always called them up whenever anything new happened to me.”
Such should be a student’s approach when setting sail for newer shores believes Tanushree Bhattacharya, head training and development at the Chopras. “The first month in a new campus is the most difficult because you are finding your way around and often there are not a lot of people to assist you do that. However, it is important for you to be strong and know that you are here for a purpose and these are just very small things which can be tackled easily by mingling with new people, exploring the new city/campus,” she says.
Aditya Goel, a student at the Nottingham Trent University, has a similar story to share. He says, “I was excited and confident during the initial weeks in my new campus. The foremost concerns were, whether I’ll meet some students from my native country and whether it will be easy to communicate with the local students and lecturers out there. I only feel homesick when I have nothing to do and I have no one around. Otherwise, being homesick is very rare.” He found it easy to acclimatize to the new culture. “I communicated with other students in a good manner and I also got involved in every social meeting conducted. These things ensured that I could meet as many students as possible and make new friends.”
It’s important to not miss the orientation week, adds Bhattacharya. “The orientation week familiarizes students with the campus and the new city and creates awareness about the key people and numbers that a student shall need during their stay in the college. Also, many universities have mentoring programmes, where they assign a mentor (preferably) of the same nationality to Freshers who take care of the new students and provide any handholding that is required,” she says.
We know it sounds easier said than done. But in any case trying and helping yourself is better than wallowing in grief. Therefore, here are five tips to handle homesickness:
1) Don’t miss the orientation week. Universities start with the orientation week, a week or two before the session begins in the university. During the orientation, the university students, seniors and volunteers takes you around the campus and familiarize you with points of contact for various things you would need at the university.
2) Parents must not accompany students to their study destination. Parents must not accompany their wards to the university. Often parents escort their children for a week or 10 days when their wards move to a new place. It is not advised because then wards will rush to their parents after college without making an effort to spend time with other students or on campus and might miss out on the initial days of camaraderie on campus. They might find it difficult to fit in later. Plus, it gets harder for students to say good bye to their parents once the session starts. They may show withdrawal symptoms after the parents leave.
3) Get a circle of friends. Remember that you are not the only one who is alone on campus. There are many more international students who have left their families behind. Befriend as many people as possible. Your strategy should be such that it is better to be homesick in a group than be homesick alone.
4) Make use of technology. Skype, Facebook has made communication really cheap and real time for many students studying abroad. Earlier these apps were limited to usage on laptops and PC; now with the popularity of smartphones, almost everyone has these apps downloaded and installed on their phones. This gives you the benefit of being on the move and still being in touch with your family and friends. With either Wi-Fi or 3g/4g data plans on your phone, you don’t have to burn a hole in your pocket.
5) Join clubs. Abroad, it is believed that Indian students remain with their own group, don’t make friends and don’t participate in activities on campus. This is just an impression Indians leave about them and is not entirely true. Understand that you have opportunities which many of your friends don’t. So, make the most of your time at the university by participating in clubs and sports. This will keep your mind engaged and you will have no time to feel homesick.
Harleen is a voracious reader and loves fiction. She’s also a Marvel, Japanese Anime and Manga geek. Given a choice she would spend her life tucked away in the serenity of the English countryside.