The MHM Blog

Coping with Homesickness: Strategies for International Students

Posted January 25, 2024
A group of college students

When going away to college, all students face similar worries before their first day. Will I enjoy being on my own? Will I make friends, like my classes, and get acquainted with the campus? All answers to those questions come with time and patience, and it’s no different for international students. 

But if you’re coming to the U.S. from another country, your worries are compounded by the fact that your home is so far away. Your homesickness amplifies while you navigate your new environment and the newfound freedom college gives you. 

Distancing yourself from home can exacerbate feelings of isolation, nostalgia, and cultural differences. In this article, we will explore how to cope with homesickness and how to create a fulfilling and exciting university experience. 

Understanding Homesickness 

Understanding the root cause of homesickness can help you figure out how to cope with it. What has been your biggest struggle, and how can you tackle it so you can start to make your new environment feel like home? From language barriers, missing friends and family, culture shock, or pressure to adapt to a new educational system, acknowledging and accepting your homesickness is the first step in finding healthy coping mechanisms that work for you.

Building a Support System 

Creating a support system is imperative to aiding some of the homesickness you feel when moving to a new country and starting a huge chapter in your life. Connecting with other international students can help you foster a sense of belonging in a new place. If you have a hard time making friends, joining an organization or a club might be the best way to meet some new people who share similar interests as you or who are going through a similar period of homesickness. UIUC also has an incredible counseling program if you need an uninvolved ear to listen in and a professional shoulder to cry on. These counselors can steer you in the right direction and provide a safe space to be guided and express your feelings. 

Embracing the Differences 

Instead of viewing your new home and environment as an obstacle to overcome, try embracing the differences your new life has brought you. Approaching this opportunity as an avenue for personal growth and development can make all the obstacles seem less daunting. Try throwing yourself in – engage in cultural events of the area like holidays, campus culture, sports, and local foods. By immersing yourself in the culture, you will feel more connected and at peace in your new home country. 

Establish Routines 

To help combat homesickness, establishing routines and becoming familiar with your environment can provide a sense of stability you might need when adjusting to a new country. Finding familiarity in tasks you do at home and even in tasks that other students do daily can help you feel like you fit in, belong, and are welcomed into the community you’re living in. You can also bring your culture to your new environment, cook dishes you enjoy from home, decorate your space with your favorite things, and enjoy your hobbies the same as before. Once you start to feel at home in your new space, creating routines seems less scary – leaning into your leisure time, studying, and exercising can contribute to a sense of normalcy that will ultimately ease your homesickness and help you enjoy your new home. 

Use Technology to Stay Connected 

With modern technology, it’s easy to stay connected with your family, friends, and life back home. Spontaneous Facetime dates can turn a bad day around if you have an iPhone. Many video apps, messaging apps, and social media help you keep up with your favorite people. And make sure to keep your social media updated for those whom you keep up with less, you will have so many fans to satisfy on your journey. Remember the love and support coming your way from back home – it can make the leap you took to get to UIUC even more rewarding. 

Coping with your homesickness is just another part of the journey international students take when deciding to come to UIUC. Understanding the root causes, building an amazing support system, and reaching out to friends and family when needed can make adjusting to a new environment less scary. Remember to enjoy your time at college – meet new people, experience new things, and have fun. Your friends and family will be waiting for your return! 

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