I’m over 3,700 miles from home with a five-hour time difference. Neither of my parents have access to cellular Internet, and I cannot text numbers outside of Morocco. I walk 20 minutes to class every morning through a neighborhood I’m unfamiliar with and study a language I’ve never attempted before. Studying abroad is unlike anything I’ve done before, with all new experiences and opportunities Unfortunately, it also begets homesickness, something that’s not easily overcome. How do you deal with being homesick when you’re so far away and for such a long time?
1. Use Internet and data to your advantage. Use apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger to stay in contact with friends and family. Depending on where you travel to, restaurants or cafes may have Wi-Fi available. You can also purchase a SIM card for calling and data purposes. Just don’t be like me and accidently buy 25GB of data that expires in a month.
2. Keep pictures of family and friends on-hand. It never hurts to keep a photo in your wallet or set your phone screen to a picture of your loved ones. Having a picture of them is almost comforting; although you can’t be home with them, they’re still with you. Plus, it acts as a great conversation starter.
3. Schedule a time to call home. Once a week, I try to get in contact with someone from home, whether it’s by email or phone. It’s not always successful since calls drop, but it works. Before leaving for another country, try setting up a day and time to call home and chat, even if it’s for half an hour. You’ll already be stressed adjusting to a new culture. The last thing you need to stress over is finding a time to call home. Focus your time on other things, like learning the Arabic alphabet a week before your final exam.
4. Talk about it with others. You’re not the only one feeling homesick. Its normal to miss home, especially when you’re away for so long (in my case, three-and-a-half months). I spent my entire summer with my family, so leaving for Morocco was extremely difficult. When I got here, I was able to find a few close friends to confide in, which I am extremely grateful for. These are friends you’ll have for years down the road.
5. Find something that reminds you of home. During my third week in Morocco, my friends and I talked non-stop about missing junk food, especially Cool Ranch Doritos. On our way to Marrakesh, my classmates and I stopped at a gas station for a quick break. There were a few of us sitting at tables, enjoying the fresh mountain air, and a few inside buying coffee. It was then when one of my friends approached our table holding a bright blue bag. “Doritos,” I excitedly thought to myself. “Cool Ranch Doritos!” When she turned the beautiful bag around to reveal the Doritos logo, I found myself extremely disappointed. They were Sweet Chili Pepper flavored. Nonetheless, I tried them and, realizing they tasted surprisingly good, purchased a bag. For just a brief moment, they reminded me of home.
6. Make time for yourself. I cannot stress this enough. Studying abroad involves a lot of changes like dietary adjustments, environmental surroundings, social changes and academic changes. If you don’t take time to relax and reboot, you will drain yourself. Lack of sleep and increase in stress will make you moodier. Relax, sleep, and don’t feel guilty about it.
Alexandria Saurman can be contacted at