This is a question I get asked quite frequently. Usually, it is followed directly by “don’t you like your family/ friends/ place?” To make this clear once and for all: I LOVE my family, my friends, and I could make a whole list of things I really love about Frankonia, the part of Germany I live in. In fact, this is the ideal place for people who love being outdoors´- hence, a paradise for me 🙂
Well, but why don’t I mind being away then? It took me quite a while to figure out an adequate answer to this, and I believe there are several factors that play a role.
First of all, it is precisely because I love my family and friends (and clearly not despite that!). I know that distance won’t make me loose them, no matter how long I am gone for. I know my family will always be there for me, no matter how far away I am- if something urgent happens, I know I can excpect a call back from my parents within 24 hours, and they have already proven multiple times that they will do everything they can to help me in case of an emergency. The same holds true for my friends. I am terrible with keeping in touch, but mmy friends often text me asking how everything is going, curious about my life abroad and very understanding when I do not answer straight away (Thanks for that guys, by the way!). Having this support from home is incredibly valubale and really helps me to let loose and not worry about becoming lonely at some point. The fact that I do not need to worry makes me able to enjoy life abroad to the fullest, allowing me to build new friendships and to explore the surroundings. Thereby, I get so caught up in my new life, that feeling homesick is entirely impossible 🙂
However, it is essential to point out that keeping in touch with friends is something that takes two to tango! Hence, I make sure I text on a regular basis. But to be honest, I think this is a neglectable effort for keeping the amazing friendships I have right now!
Secondly, I know myself quite well. Of course, there are moments I would love to be at home and share certain experiences with my family and friends- my uncle’s weeding I missed recently is the perfect example. But I learned a few tricks that help me overcome these moments easily, and I am more than happy to share them with you´- maybe they work for some of you as well 🙂
When I feel lonely (especially when I just arrived in a country and don’t know a lot of people yet), I text my friends at home, and try to Skype one of them. Talking to someone usually helps to overcome the feeling of lonelyness. But it is important to not always look back and try solving the issue at the place you are currently at. Hence, I usually go outside when I feel like this, and try to meet people. For me personally, going to the gym does miracles. Getting my head down, focussing on something completely different and also socializing with other athletes is the best medication! Besides that, going for a walk, going to a café and (as creepy as it sounds) watching other people are some of my regular quick fixes as well. Especially when you are pretty new at a place, why don’t you just go and explore your surroundings? Getting caught up in a new culture, learning fascinating things and experiencing an entirely different lifestyle certainly gets your mind off dark thoughts 🙂
Also, try to be realistic. When being abroad, home suddendly seems to be heaven on earth. After some days away, little things that used to annoy you start to vanish, and home becomes an ideal which does not exist like that. For example, I normally just remember how awesome it used to be to live in a village surrounded by forests to go for a run- that this meant that I had to travel by bus for over half an hour to reach the city centre didn’t even cross my mind.
It is important that you bear in mind that NO place. NO life is ever going to be perfect- there will be struggles everywhere.
And finally, if you encounter struggles during your time abroad (or anwhere, in fact), try to see the positive aspects (if there are any). First of all, overcoming obstacles makes you stronger- always! Once you managed to solve a certain problem, you will be able to easily solve it again- often, it doesn’t even look like one anymore 🙂 And just think about the cool story a bad experience can be used for (yes, that is indeed a weak positivee point, but it is one nonetheless, and sometimes it sadly is the only one). For example, I once got stung by a scorpion in the middle of a tropical forest in Costa Rica, with no first aid equipment anywhere nearby. Believe me, it was anything but a pleasant experience- but you have to admit, it sounds pretty cool now I am talking about it, right?
Furthermore, it was always my very own choice to go abroad. There is a German saying: “Du hast dir die Suppe eingebrockt, jetzt musst die sie auch auslöffeln”. That basically means: You wanted it this way, so you have to bear the consequences. Whenever I start to regret the choice of going abroad, I tell myself this sentence and try to be strict with myself.
Finally, I want to highlight my personal key factor: So far, all my stays abroad have been for a limited period of time. I always knew when I would see my family and friends again. I think this really helps me to not even become homesick. But quite frankly, this also applies to every long-term expat: No matter where on the globe you are, there is always a way home. I bet that you can reach any place in the world (well, any more or less civilized place) within a maximum of 48 hours. You will never loose yoour home for good!