Hello Summer time!
After passing my exams and wrapping up the end of my first year as a Karolinska Institutet student, I can finally get into vacation mode. Which luckily for me, means a trip home this summer. It has been TWO YEARS since I have been home. Flying is expensive, then there is the car rental, and hotels, and of course buying all the things I have missed while I’ve been away. But it is also the matter of time, it feels too far away to fly home for anything less than a week, but I usually try to aim for three. It gives me time to really get into being home, and time to visit everyone, then I can start missing Sweden and get excited about coming back. Part of not going home very often means that I have to deal with homesickness. I’ve been in Sweden for 5 years and it is home, but it’s not. I have one foot in the USA, and one foot here in Sweden, and both are home. Homesickness is a part of my life, and that is okay.
I was reading this article http://www.rookiemag.com/2015/06/how-to-make-anywhere-feel-like-home/
and it has some pretty good points. The best way to fight homesickness is to feel at home with where you are. I recycle, bike to the store, take public transit, and all sorts of things that my American family find quirky and just odd. Of course, I am also comfortable talking to total strangers over absolutely nothing, I have a sweet tooth which is unrivaled in Sweden, and I do drive when I have to take lots of stuff, buy lots of things, or go somewhere that takes much longer to commute to. My Swedish family just doesn’t understand. On a side note, my sweet tooth makes baking in this country fun because I sometimes get reactions of “Ugh! Is this pure sugar! How do you eat that!? It’s too sweet!” Which amuses me more than it should.
The point really is that homesickness is real, and you have to find a way to help you cope. Here are some of my personal strategies that have helped me through some dark times.
1) Actively build a life for yourself while living abroad. Decorate your living space, go out and try new things, meet-up with people and make friends. If you feel connected to where you are, it will really help keep that stomach-dropping feeling of “I CAN NOT BELIEVE I AM SO FAR AWAY I JUST WANT MY MOMMY” feeling at bay. Be pro-active, and open minded about how all these new experiences no matter how different are great life experiences.
2) Be prepared to be homesick. When I get homesick I cook food from my home, I listen to American country music (I’m from the south, that twang speaks to my heart), I read the news from back home. I try to bring as much with me as I can, and let the internet help me feel connected to my culture. Don’t ignore it, embrace that you come from somewhere special and celebrate it.
3) While embracing and celebrating, DO NOT WALLOW. Once you start down the path of “But back home everything is better” it is hard to stop. I have gotten sucked into a few weeks of homesickness misery of missing everything and everyone and getting nostalgic over stupid things I do not even like about my home. Fight the wallowing! Do it by thinking of things you do not like from back home, things you love about here, and think about how being away from home is benefiting you. I never saw a porcupine before coming to Sweden, it’s a small thing but it helps me appreciate how special where I am is.
4) Talk to the people you care about from home. Some people use skype, but that feels weird to me and reminds me how far away I am. I got a great international calling plan on my cellphone, and I call my family regularly. I never let it go more than a week, and it means I do not get disconnected from the people I love. I know all the small details, the petty drama. My grandmother’s dislike that her neighbor swims around the edge of the pool instead of laps? Mundane detail, absolutely, but I feel like I am a part of her life. My niece building a blanket fort because her friend was spending the night? I heard all about it. Don’t let talking to people you care about become a special thing, make it routine.
5) When all else fails, plan when you are going home. Knowing you will be there “soon” can really take the edge off. You can make lists of things to do while you’re there, people to see. Let the anticipation of being home soon help you through the time until you can get there.
I hope these tips can help some of you guys while studying abroad. It is a great experience to try new things, but we can’t help craving what is familiar. I hope all of you have a great summer, and I hope I will get to meet some of you at the start of the school year in the fall.