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37. How do I overcome homesickness

Having been in Taiwan now for about two and a half years now, homesickness has kicked in more than just a few times. Personally, a number of things trigger my homesickness e.g. the weather, food, surroundings.

December in Taiwan has arrived, and along with it came that dreaded cold air. I absolutely despise it. Being from a tropical island really makes you stand out here. While everyone is in a somewhat thick sweater, I’ve got a full winter coat on, with a scarf and warm boots. Though there are other foreigners around, they enjoy the slight chill in the air. For persons like me, that slight chill is no different from temperatures in Alaska or Antarctica. In times like these, I long for the white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and warm air of my island home. Since I can’t jet halfway across the world on a whim, home prepared cocoa powder (used to make traditional hot chocolate tea) helps ease the pain. On days when the temperature gets unbearable, nothing helps more than that.

Many youth people are somehow afraid of how their lives would be when they go living abroad. Some of them fear that they might not ever get used to the food nor be able to communicate in the foreign language that is spoken in the new country; both things making life harder for them. However, most of them feel more worried about leaving their family and friends behind, and adventuring themselves into a slightly different world. As time passes by, foreigners may start feeling lonely and homesick which is just not positive nor constructive in any way. So that is the reason why I would like to share what has helped me to overcome homesickness.

First of all, communication is very important to keep you in touch with those you love. Making a phone call is easier than ever nowadays with different software such as Skype or LINE. Normally, you can use these programs to make free calls to anywhere in the world. In my case, my family usually calls me to ask me how I am doing. When I am not feeling OK or when I am feeling a little bit down, I can just call them easily and for sure they will listen to me and help me out. Using social media or e-mails appropriately may be beneficial too, especially for keeping yourself updated on what is going on around your friends and families who are on the other side of the world. In the same way, you can post pictures or videos and send messages to your friends so they can know how your life is abroad.

Homesickness is very common among international students, especially first-year students. It may feel as if you are completely alone.

University can be an exciting experience for students. It can be a time of making lifelong friends; exploring new places, ideas, and identities and a time where students grow into their unique persona. Besides being challenged academically, one of the most significant hurdles to overcome is often the experience of homesickness.

Most students experience some degree of homesickness when they first arrive on campus, especially for students who have moved away from their social support base and are learning to adapt to a new environment. Such feelings of homesickness commonly involve a sense of loneliness, sadness, confusion, fear, and a pre-occupation with thoughts about home. Such responses are similar to grief reactions whereby students become separated from family and close friends and feel a sense of loss of people, places and familiar routines of “home” may still be lingering. Often it can distract the individual from both the social and the academic opportunities of being a student.

Homesickness is longing for one's family or home. It is usually the preoccupying of one’s thoughts with love ones and previous attached objects. It can affect all ages once they find themselves in a complete new location different from their actual home and result into depressive and anxious moods.

In my case, I try overcoming homesickness by appreciating my new environment. This is because accepting the fact that four years of study is a long period and is the first inevitable reality one need to face. The way I accomplish this is by making genuine friends as many as possible and that is both locals and international. My news friends will somehow replace the old ones that I am missing. As my new environment is an important part of my stay, I also try to discover more new locations within to avoid being locked up in only one spot. The worst moments of my homesickness is during winter and summer vacation when the campus is almost empty and dull. During this period, I resort to lots of short visits in the nearby settlements and night markets. This is a good way of understanding the people and enhancing your insight of typical Taiwanese way of doing things. It is also facilitate making friends with the locals since during school hours the interaction is mostly with students and teachers.

I only arrived in Taiwan this year and homesickness was and still is a problem I am faced with. Homesickness is said to be a longing to return home, but as a student I have to overcome it.  I overcome homesickness by  talking to my relatives, keeping a journal, making  new friends  and  practicing  some of my customs and habits from  home .

My country is approximately 9736.4 Miles away from Taiwan, however a simple phone call or video chat seems to shorten that distance. I don’t talk to my relatives or family everyday but I try to contact them at least 2 to 3 times a week. Some days, I call and other days we video chat. It helps me deal with homesickness because it assures me that they are doing well and I no longer feel so distant from them. Normally my family and friends let me know of the latest happenings back in my country which sometimes satisfies my longing to return home. I believe that hearing a familiar voice or seeing a familiar face is the perfect remedy for homesickness.

I keep a journal where I record important events in my life. I normally write in my journal once a week or sometimes more depending on the occasion or the experience. However when I experience homesickness, I feel much better after I putting my emotions on paper. Normally when I feel homesick, I write stories or poems about what I love about my home and the places and scenes which I long to see and revisit. Sometimes I write about my friends and family members and recall different situations and memorable moments which I shared with them.

Before coming to Taiwan on 2011 I was worry about living abroad; language, food and especially being homesick.  I was wondering how was going to be my life out of my country and the upcoming experiences in Taiwan.  The first months were the most exiting ones having to learn about culture, food, and language. However, after having this memorable period, I found myself being homesick and missing family. Let me tell you how the things happened with more details.

I have always being a “Family guy”, I used to spend time with my sisters either watching TV, talking, or discussing. Often we have family meetings where we share with our cousins, uncles, and aunties.  On weekend we used to go to church or just spent Saturday and Sunday at home. Regardless the activity I used to share most of the time with my family.

When I came to Taiwan I realized that language and food were not extremely big problems for me; however culture and family were facts that changed me for good. Cultural differences have been very difficult to overcome, and not being surrounded by my family taught me to be stronger and adapt to this change. Although since I came to Taiwan I have changed, I am still a “Family guy” and I try to keep in contact with my family by mail, email, video calls etc. I like to share the amazing experiences Taiwan and ICDF had offered to me; this shortened the bridge in between us.

This is very curious because someone recently asked me the same question : how do you overcome your homesickness this 2 years, well I told this person it is true that I miss my family a lot, and even though I have been through hard time missing everything back home, I’m very grateful to have this opportunity because not everyone has the chance to go abroad to study, this is what makes me overcome my homesickness: my courage and hope that at the end of this 4 years far away from my family ,my effort will have a reward in so many different ways not only in my career and in my future but in my experience in life, I have learned to overcome different cultures, totally different languages but it is totally worth it because I have gained so many friends here, from so many countries that I never thought I would have, and this friends make me feel that Taiwan it is a second home for me.

When I first came to Taiwan I thought I would never be able to overcome my homesickness, specially when is related to the food topic, in the beginning I miss so much my food back home but after a while I realized that it is somehow that you have to open your mind and try new thing, I was so closed at the beginning I didn’t want to try Taiwan food and I didn’t know what I was missing after a while I open my mind and I started trying new things and really Taiwanese food is so delicious that after a while I forgot a little bit about my food back home. This was another experience in my life and this is something I know I would never learned back home, being in another country open my mind in so many ways it makes me fierce to try new things.

Homesickness can manifest itself in many different ways, and it can affect each and every single one of us who makes the bold step of moving far away from your home country, your familiarity, and comfort zones. Being far away from home, families, and friends is not an easy task to handle, it need courage and determination, it comes with stresses, mixed feelings and tears, because there is a part of you that longer stays with you, your home, your people. Family is the greatest gift in life and there is no place like home. Thinking of the bond, the togetherness,  the smiles, the happy moments, the love, the security that are not seem to available in the new environment makes tears run down my cheek. I never imagine, I will be so far away, so distant from my home. Nostalgia makes me feel so cold, so frighten, but with the courage I have from my family that no matter how far, our prayers and hearts will always be with one another. Homesickness is a natural phenomenon, a strong feeling that makes you miss the people that put smile on your face, the ones you cherish most, the environment you born and raised in. Humans have a deeper connection with their environment, and walking away from it makes you feel unhappy. Not only do I miss the wonderful peoples (relatives and friends), I miss my surroundings, the activities, the lifestyles and the food. I overcome my home sickness in the following ways: regular communication, self encouragement and motivation, and strolling around my vicinity.

In our situation that we are foreigner studying in another country, and  really far for our countries, specially people who have never experience this type of long trips there are many ways to survive with what really sometimes feels like a "sickness" and in this case homesickness. I can guarantee homesickness can affect people of all ages in almost any situation. so If we want to know how to deal with homesickness and to learn to love the new environment we should at least find the way to not have this kind of feelings for example in my case before I talked with many people who have been in this experience, like my aunties or uncles; so they gave me some advices of how stop this feelings.

The first example they gave was to pack some of my favorite things or something that will remind me to my life in my country. I tried to pack many things I could such as pictures and any pillow. But I think doing these things brought me more memories so after one week I started feeling really down and I wanted to go back, but what it made me felt better was to talked with my parents by Skype, and they told me some good words which make me felt stronger and keep doing well learning my Chinese.

Taiwan, yes of course, the place that right now, where I continue my study is the island that has a lot of memory and history. Actually, my country, Indonesia is the archipelago too. But, here, in Taiwan, is different, the people, the culture, and the cuisine that almost different with my country ever. In the beginning of my coming to Taiwan, I got a lot of cultural shock, because everything is so different. Day by day, I ever passed, I began to find my comforts. Even though I was having a problem of homesickness, but because of the friends, the environment so friendly made me more comfortable to live in Taiwan. When I got a homesickness, the first thing to do is Traveling. Why? Because when you go to other place and know the culture then you would love it and experiencing a new ones that you never got it before. Here I came, then the first plan that I had was travelling, yeah, travelling, that I had dreamt of, not only study in the campus but also knowing the culture is Taiwan is the must. I tried to begin my journey to the nearest place, Sandimen. Sandimen is located in Pingtung County. I just wondered that Sandimen is the village of indigenous people of Taiwan. If It was being rooted to the ancestor, that They were part of Austronesian people, they had a lot similarities with us, instead of their skin color, their face, and some words, like lima or five (in english), bahuor shoulder, hujan or rain, and other words. I felt like home already.