Your home away from home : Homesickness as an international student

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Having the opportunity to study abroad is a chance most students are excited for. The chance to explore new cultures, live through new experiences and most times, attain a world-class education all sound fantastic. I certainly was more than thrilled to jump at it. However, this thrilling and exciting time comes with a bit of a downer- Homesickness. As an international student myself, I know first-hand how it feels to be away from home and everything you’re used to. Living in a foreign country with unfamiliar norms and practises isn’t the easiest thing to adjust to especially if you’re young. Coupled with the elevated stress that university assignments and deadlines bring, it could be very difficult to handle.  No worries! I am here to help. This would be my second year studying away from home and I’ve learnt some tips along the way that make things just that bit easier.

  1. Make time to talk to family and friends back home: With Instagram and WhatsApp, and a gazillion other social media apps, keeping in touch is literally just a tap away. Sadly, the UAE has restrictions on certain video calling apps, but you could always schedule a zoom meeting with family and friends. It is not the same as seeing them in person but it’s a mighty good alternative.
  2. Food! I know you are wondering ‘’what does food have to do with anything?’’. Trust me, homesickness spans across more than just the people you miss, it’s the food, the culture, the weather and so much more. Try to cook meals you would usually eat if you were back home with family. It does a great deal of good.
  3. Join Clubs! Getting involved in extracurriculars is a great way to make friends and broaden your circle. Join international clubs to have a space with people going through exactly what you are. Join student societies that share your culture. And if there aren’t any that relate to you, you could always start one. At UoB Dubai, there are lots of cultural societies so go sign up!
  4. Stay active: Keep yourself occupied. The less you have to do, the more time you have to dwell in the homesickness bubble so get off that bed and get to work! Go on walks, explore your new home, exercise, and meet up with friends.
  5. Stay positive: Open up and embrace your new home away from home. Be open to meeting new people and creating your own little surrogate family. Having great friends as a support system is amazing. Step out of your comfort zone and embrace the new culture around you, you might just end up loving it.

Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. So many other people are going through the same things you are. Reach out for support, talking always makes it better. So, pick up that phone and call your friends, family, former classmates etc. At UoB we are all one big family so there is always someone ready to listen. Your personal tutor and Student Wellbeing Officer have most likely dealt with homesickness themselves and helped other students get through it so do reach out. xx

Written by Hawwa Zubair, BSc Psychology

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