Views from abroad: Homesickness is normal

Veronica Wernicke, Assistant Opinion Editor

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‘Ello lads and lassies and welcome to another edition of “Views from abroad.” This week, I want to address something we all have experienced: homesickness.

I have been abroad for about five weeks now, and despite all the fun and wonderful moments I have experienced thus far, there are still times that I wish I was at home in my own, much more comfortable bed.

We have all experienced homesickness, no matter if it was at a summer camp, college, vacation, studying abroad, or any period of transition. In fact, according to a report done by the UCLA Higher Education Institute in 2015 found that 69 percent of college students in their first-year experience homesickness in some capacity.

That number feels accurate, and it probably rises when you add in factors like studying abroad or going to camp.  

Just speaking with my friends from back home and the new ones I have made while abroad, all admit that they have experienced homesickness in some capacity either in their first year or currently.

Canadian anthropologist Kalervo Oberg came up with the four common stages people experience when they move abroad. Those four stages include “The Honeymoon,” where you experience excitement; “Culture Shock,” where you experience some hostility; “Gradual Adjustment,” where perspective comes into play; and lastly “Feeling at Home,” where you start to adapt.

I find myself somewhere between the cultural shock and gradual adjustment stages.

For at least the first two weeks of my study abroad trip, it did not sink in that I would be across the pond for six months. It felt like a quick trip abroad and then I would be heading home. From then on it finally sank in, and I remember rolling that thought over and over in my head. Six months without my friends and family. Six months without my bed. Six months without much familiarity. Six months without my cat.  

That third week was hard and there are still moments when all I want is Wilmington, but then I remember that this is the trip of a lifetime and I cannot simply lie around missing home when there is a whole world out there for me to explore.

It is also important to note that we can also feel homesick more than once. I will admit I experienced it last year during my first year at UNC Wilmington, but that is still normal.

While UNCW’s Education Abroad department does a nice job of listing various resources for pre- and post-departure, they don’t address homesickness in depth. While they provide information on other health and safety issues, homesickness is just as important. In their handbook, there are only three instances where the phrase “homesickness” is directly addressed:

“In addition, culture shock, language barriers, and homesickness can deepen isolation or depression,” and “expect to feel depressed or alone sometimes. Homesickness is natural, especially if you haven’t been away from home before. The best way to combat homesickness is to get involved in your new location and immerse yourself in your new culture. Don’t let thoughts of home detract from your ability to make the most of your time abroad,” found under the mental health section on page 23 and on page 26.

While my personal homesickness experience has not reached extremes of wanting to go back home, the feeling is still present and UNCW could have addressed this better beforehand. Or at least provided more helpful resources related to homesickness.

Being homesick is common. Just because you have those feelings does not mean you are not truly experiencing something fully, it just means you are human and miss the comforts of home that we all take for granted.

So, while I am having the time of life studying abroad in Scotland, I still love talking to my family every night and miss sleeping in my queen-sized bed where I do not feel the springs with every toss and turn.