The unfamiliarity of being in a new country is what makes traveling such an exciting experience, but it can also leave us feeling quite homesick. While it is so easy to get caught up in new experiences and adventures, there are sometimes little moments where we are reminded of home and then feel out of our comfort zone in our abroad atmosphere.
I recently had an experience that gave me insight into these contrasting feelings when I went to New York last weekend for a cousin’s Bat Mitzvah. Being surrounded by my family in a familiar place was incredible, and felt so much more natural than I thought it would (being that I was in the middle of a full European tour). Everything that I once knew fell back into place so easily and reminded me of everything that was so different from my new life studying abroad in Spain. That Sunday night, I sat in the JFK airport bawling my eyes out. It wasn’t that I was sad to go back to Europe, but this short yet sweet experience stirred up many emotions that I had been holding in. I had forgotten how much I missed the little things like joking around with my brother, beating treated to a meal by my parents, and most importantly a NY bagel.
While coming back to Madrid was difficult, it reminded me of how lucky I was to be having this experience and just how fleeting it is. Before we know it, I will be back to reality, wishing I was still gallivanting around the world. In the meantime, here are a few tips to make your experience while traveling or studying in a new country a little bit more like home.
1. See a Movie
The simple act of sitting in a movie theater with some popcorn and candy can cure almost any type of scaries. Focusing on a fictional story for a few hours in the comfort of sweatpants and processed food is a perfect way to escape the chaotic environment of abroad and make you feel more at home. Also, the movies are something I always associate with familiarity and American culture. So take a break from everything crazy in your life and go see A Star is Born! I promise you will feel more relaxed.
2. Keep in Touch with Friends and Family
With busy schedules and tricky time changes, it can be extremely difficult to sit down and talk to your friends and family for an extended period of time while traveling. I am the kind of person that talks to my mom 24/7 while at college, but here I can go days without fully talking to her, just because everything gets so hectic. Taking the time to sit and chat with someone that reminds you of home is a perfect way to bring familiarity to your unfamiliar environment. Sometimes it’s nice to hear about what’s going on with people that are still at Tulane, in your hometown, or just doing something outside of your traveling experience. Also, if you have friends from high school also studying abroad in a place accessible to you, I highly recommend attempting to travel with them. Taking a trip with people outside of your program (and especially people who remind you of home) is a great way to add comfort to your experience.
3. Write in a Journal
Writing about your experiences and thoughts can help to clear your mind and reflect upon all of your exciting journeys. Sometimes it’s hard to fully grasp the reality of your situation abroad. At times, it feels surreal, almost like a fake life, and that can make the experience only more overwhelming. Taking time to sit down and privately think and write about all of your insights and adventures is the perfect way to feel more grounded and to fully appreciate everything you are experiencing.
4. Order in Food
When studying in a different country, there is a constant pressure to be doing something every second of the day. After a while, this gets to be extremely exhausting. Some nights you just need to relax, put on Netflix, and eat some take-out food.Whether your city has UberEats or you can just quickly grab a slice of pizza to go, having a chill night in can sometimes be the cure for any sadness. Ordering in food can also be a fun activity to do with your friends abroad to remind you of being back in your college dorm or your cozy bed at home.
5. Don’t be Afraid to Feel Sad
This is probably the most important tip of all. Bottling up your feelings sometimes feels like the right thing to do in order to avoid being upset in an unfamiliar environment. But letting yourself feel sad is okay, and is often the best way to feel better. Crying it out can help you to understand what you are going through and let yourself feel your emotions. Also, I can guarantee you that many of the people around you are going through the same exact thing, so talk to your friends. You will feel so much better discussing what you’re going through with another person.
If you are ever missing home, or just need a break from the hectic abroad lifestyle, try out some of these tips to make the best out of your experience!
COVER PHOTO: Global Tree