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37. How do I overcome homesickness

Hello everyone, mi name is Olga Peña, Nicaraguan; currently I’m pursuing a master’s degree, major in International Human Resources in National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) in Taipei.

I came to Taiwan, one year and a half ago, and the following section I will tell you my experience and how I overcome the homesickness, I will let you know what have been useful for me.

Before leaving my home country, about 2 moths, I prepared psychologically to myself, just by thinking that I have to face a culture totally different to my home country’s culture, beliefs, values, attitudes, norms, economic growth, and I should say that it definitely helped me a lot during my first months of stay, in such a way that I enjoyed those cultural differences.

Food

The food and eating habits are totally different in Taiwan, thus when the months passed, around six months of stay, I started missing my food, my family and my own culture.

My name is Jeanine Orozco. I am from Nicaragua, and since I was a child I had the opportunity to travel to Germany, USA, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Cuba, and now Taiwan. All my travels to these countries have something in common that I always get homesick even if I traveled with my family or not.

For me traveling alone is the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, because I am very attached to my family. Even vacation travels do not get my whole attention, because I am always thinking about what my parents, my brothers and sisters, even my boyfriend are doing. I also think about what could I be eating or doing if I were in my home country. Leaving my family, friends, things that I like to do, the food, the drinks, etc., is very hard for me, because I am always thinking what will happen with me if something wrong happens in my home country, or even worse to my family.

It has been a long journey away from home, set to experience graduate school life, learn a new language, experience different cultures, in a country I will call second home and come home with a new outlook.  However, as I sit on my study table, and go around with other foreign students, I realized that the transition is not always easy for what is foreign to become familiar. Study abroad, which experienced before I came to Taiwan, is always a gratifying experience for me. Throughout my trips, I learned so much about the world I live in, and the people who share it with me. My journey inspired me to become a worldlier person; it opened my eyes to the beauty, and reality of the outside world.  

During this whole rewarding adventure, I have experienced homesickness first hand. That experience prepared me more for the challenges I might experience here in Taiwan.  I always have an open mind-set that being homesick is a learning platform for one to realize that people’s ways of life differs. Being homesick is a very common feeling among students and is normal when acquaintances are out of sight. Sometimes I think about people at home all the time, and it makes me want to go home every month. So when you’re homesick, how do you deal with it? Fortunately, I always have my ways out of homesickness, I called it Awa’s coping strategies, and I believe it can be useful to many.

Be it the first time away from home or going back to study after a break, Studying in a different country can be both a wonderful opportunity to experience a foreign culture and a challenge to face the new changes that comes there forth. Being a student in a foreign country is far different from being a tourist. Even if it is exciting, change is mostly not an easy thing to cope with. The initial periods can sometimes be quite bumpy. That can certainly be worst if homesickness becomes part of the experience abroad. The loss of something familiar and secure can be what one would tend to yearn for and grieve over: this is mostly about the loss of people - family and friends - and the loss of routines and places, and the fact that one realizes that family life continues without him/her.

Good Day to all who are reading and thank you for taking a few seconds of your time to read a short humble experience of mine in one of the most delightful places I have been in my life.

Back home, I made a promise to myself that every year I would travel to different places in the world with the hope that I would meet other brothers of mine, absorb cultures, experiment with food and just find tranquility. I have been doing so for couple years now, by travelling to different nearby countries as a start and then I had planned to go to Europe. But never did I imagine that I would end up in Taiwan and studying at the same time.

Leaving your country for the first time is not easy, especially when you travel literally across the globe to live in an entirely new and different culture. In my personal experience, I found that the hardest part is at the beginning; those first few days after you arrive. Between the jetlag and pointing at pictures to order food, you have to get used to an entirely different way of living, a mixture of excitement for being in a new place and sadness for having to do it on your own without your friends and family to share it with, this is when homesickness starts.

The first way that helps me overcome this feeling is; of course, keep in constant communication with my family and friends. Nowadays, with the use of social networks and several voices over IP software available, it’s easier to keep in contact with everyone back home. During the first days I tried to figure out what schedules worked the best for both of us but the fourteen hour difference definitely does not help. However, I now speak with them at least once a week and use any kind of instant messaging (Whatsapp, Line, Facebook etc.) every day to share pictures, videos, files and just to talk to them about everything I am doing.

Being far away from home can be an issue for anyone, it doesn’t matter if I’m leaving home for a couple of weeks, months or years, that warmth I feel in my pounding heart every time I return home is simply priceless. It is so priceless that it’s normal to feel homesick every once in a while, particularly if you know you’re going to be so far away for such a long time. Although the memories and feelings might get to me sometimes, I’ve learned how to keep it together and don’t let that affect the purpose I have to fulfill in the country I live in. Through my opinion I’ve identified several things I miss from home and I will give you some tips based on how I have learned to overcome them.

No matter how good the food is in the country you are living in, I guarantee you will still miss food from your home. I can’t help myself thinking of what I used to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner and look at how that has changed since I moved. Every once in a while I go to the supermarket and buy the ingredients to make something just like I use to eat at home. No matter where you are from and which country you are in, I promise that if you really dig into the stores you might find some common ingredients and be able to cook some of your tasty homemade food. I like to take into account that cooking is part of the therapy, I always try having fun, thinking of the final result and how much I will enjoy tasting those home-like flavors again. I usually try to eat my cooked meal just like I used to eat it at home, whether it is sitting on the couch watching my favorite show or movie, or sitting at a dining table, inviting a couple of friends over to share this experience with.

Since the first day I came to Taiwan homesickness came to knock my door. But for my sake I tried not to let it come in. sometimes I couldn’t avoid it, but as the time went by I started using technics to deal with it.

To my homesickness comes as a feeling that makes me miss the environment that was used to, including things like my family, friends, music, people, food, culture and so on. Most of these things I can’t find them here and when I am wishing them, then, it is when homesickness strikes. What I did was that I tried to reach these things that I missed so much; for example, I called my relatives, listened to my favorite music, and did things to make me feel like I was at home. But, as the time passed by in this new place I started getting used to it and discovered new things that I started to like. In this order I managed to make a balance in this stage am living, so when I feel homesick I don’t just show resistance trying to make me feel like at home all the time but I look for the way to embrace this place as my home. I live a balanced life not losing the love for my homeland but also discovering how to love Taiwan more every day.

Dealing with home sickness has been a challenging endeavour since I came to Taiwan. Although slowly am coping with my new environment, I personally do find it tough to cope with home sickness, however, not always because there is so much to do.

I have tried to overcome the feeling of homesickness by making friends with local people. My lab mates will sometimes take me out to the city to visit number of places like the night market. Events like those effectively isolate me from thinking about my home and the people back there. Spending a lot of my time doing my school work keeps my mind busy thus reducing the chances of thinking about things that can be self-destructive.

Taiwan is like my second home.  The foods, weather, people, culture, etc, none of them is new or strange to me.  This is the second time I came to this beautiful island and everything is normal to me.  Now I live in Kaohsiung, a port city in the southern part of Taiwan, for more than a year and found out that this city is more comfortable and relaxing when talking about weather.  I lived in Taipei for 7 years and the cold and rainy weather during winter always made me unsettled and uncomfortable.  On the other hand, people live Taipei and Kaohsiung does have their own way of life.  Relaxing, smiling and socialized people in Kaohsiung made me feel more at home compared to busy and serious- looking people in the north, Taipei.

The language is the main factor to overcome homesickness.  Hardship and difficulties in communication with local people would add social pressure on you which can lead you to remembering your family or friends and missing your home country badly.  Sometimes you feel isolated or ignored when you cannot speak probably to locals or fully understand what they said.  Making friend with local and get along well with them requires a good communication.  My Mandarin now is acceptably good and I have made lots of good Taiwanese friends as well as some from other countries.  Hangout with them, talking and sharing jokes with them eradicate homesickness feelings completely. I sometimes consider themselves as my family members.  My country mates in Taiwan are also my good and close friends and we are like big family here.  I feel so blessed and special to have such good friends in my lives.