Studying Abroad: A Guide to Homesickness

So I’ve been in Prague for a total of four days now but it feels a lot longer. I’ve explored the city a little bit on some unofficial tours and gotten to know some of the other people in my program so I’m definitely starting to feel a little more like I belong here. That’s not to say I’m not homesick though. I think one of the hardest things about study abroad is that the influx of new sights, places, and experiences makes you miss the familiarity of home. Even for someone like me, who almost never gets homesick and rarely ever calls her parents during the school year, this experience has brought out that homesick kid in me. I’ve been calling my parents as many times as I can via Facebook – which was a lifesaver when I was having trouble activating my international SIM card a few days ago – and find myself missing them at random points in the day. It’s definitely a new experience for me – I’ve never had to deal with this feeling before so I don’t have any go-to plan of action for dealing with it – but I think I’m slowly starting to feel better about being here.

One of the things that helped ease my homesickness was a sense of stability, no matter how superficial. For example, when I first got to Prague, I felt like I was constantly off-balance because I was late to our first group dinner/mingling session and hadn’t really gotten to know my roommates or Czech buddy – the designated local student who would be helping us get acclimated to the culture and help show us around. I didn’t really know what to expect or have anyone I could comfortably talk to because everything was so new and coming at me all at once. But now that I’ve met a lot of the other people in my program and been able to laugh and joke with them for a few days, I feel much more comfortable and at ease, which is really working to alleviate my homesickness.

Another thing that really helped me was being able to contact my parents. The first two days I wasn’t sure if I could even talk to my parents – I made sure they set up Facebook Messenger on their phones so we could talk without paying crazy international rates but they never seemed to be on, and when they were one or both of us would take forever to respond so conversations that should have lasted a few minutes ended up taking a few hours to finish. But eventually I taught them how to video chat with me and it really helped to be able to talk to them and let them know how I was doing, and to hear about their day. It gave me a sense of calm just to know that, even though I was having all of these new experiences, I could still rely on my parents to be going through their normal, everyday routine. But, at the same time, it’s also really important that I’m not able to talk to them all of the time. Texting and calling them is really expensive and right now I can only really Facebook chat with them when I have WiFi, which usually means I reserve any chats we may have to my apartment. That way I was able to use my parents to help ease my homesickness without relying on them like a crutch.

And lastly, I feel like time was really important. Everyone’s a little scared and homesick for their first few days until they get the swing of things. For some it takes longer, but for me I think that the worst of it will pass by the time this week is over. I’ll still make sure to keep in regular contact with my parents but it will be because I want to, not just because I’m feeling crappy being all by myself in a new country.

But other than that, everything’s been amazing. It’s crazy how many new things you find yourself doing when you’re in a new environment. So far I’ve been to a monastery, gone on a scavenger hunt that took me all across Prague, and fell in love with deserts I’ve never seen before. Tomorrow is going to be my first day of actual classes too so that’s another new experience that I get to look forward to. We’re finally going to be learning Czech so maybe I’ll actually be able to order food now without pointing at the menu like an idiot. No promises though.