Volunteering abroad in a completely new country can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve never been far away from home before. It’s completely normal to miss home! It’s part of the process of adjusting… However, when you feel like it’s all a bit too much, there are many ways to make yourself feel more comfortable. Read more to find out the ways that I overcame homesickness while interning with Globalteer in our office in Cusco!
Living away from home
I have lived away from home for 3 years now. I spent the first 2 living at my University city in Durham, and for the past year I’ve been on my year abroad. Despite being away from home for quite some time now, moving to Cusco was something completely different. I lived in Germany for 6 months and thought I had got the hang of this getting-over-homesickness thing. However, when I came to Peru I realised just how far away from home I really was.
When I first arrived, I was nervous to see who I’d be living with, what Peru would be like and how I’d manage to fit in in this new environment. I think it took a few weeks, but soon enough I was feeling much better and as my friend would put it, I was really appreciating living “where my feet are”.
Here are some of the things that really helped me to get to that point
1. Keeping close contact with friends and family from home. Going to a new place is knowing that doesn’t mean you are leaving your old life behind! Regularly talking to family is a great way of keeping your loved ones up to date with what you're doing. It also allows you to share your experiences with them. I found that this makes you feel like they’re coming along this exciting new journey with you!
2. I also find that calling friends is great for overcoming homesickness because it makes you feel like you aren’t missing out on too much. Leaving friends behind can be sad, especially if you know things might be different when you get back. However, staying in the loop is a wonderful way to feel like you’re both still very involved in one another's lives.
Stay busy and write a diary!
3. Staying busy! I found that the times I felt most homesick were when I was alone and overthinking about everything. Staying busy and exploring the new country you’re in is a lovely way to take your mind off things whilst also getting to see more of the place you’re in! Getting to know the country you’re in and chatting to new people is exactly what you came here to do! Take advantage of the fact you’re somewhere completely different. It will make you appreciate the amazing experience you’re having and I think that really helps with homesickness.
4. I also really enjoyed writing a diary whilst staying here. It helped me to reflect on what was going on and more importantly to think about how I am feeling. Sometimes getting everything out and seeing it on a page makes it easier to process. Writing a diary, in my opinion, is also sort of like having a conversation with yourself at the end of the day to evaluate how you feel. Asking yourself “how are you feeling?” is just as important as asking the same question to a friend.
Throw yourself into everything you do!
5. Bringing small things that remind you of home is also a good way to feel like life isn’t completely different. I recommend bringing photos, letters/postcards or books. Or just anything you have which makes you happy. I brought my teddy bear that I’ve had since I was a baby for the times when I needed a hug!
6. My last suggestion is that when you arrive, to really throw yourself into everything you’re doing. If you’re constantly thinking about how much you wish you were at home, it’s very difficult to appreciate the incredible experience you could be having. It’s lovely thinking about your life at home, but coming to a new country to volunteer/ intern is a step in self-growth. And unfortunately, you can’t grow if in your head you’re still stuck at home. Approaching the situation with an open mind, ready for all the possibilities that this chapter could bring, is essential to enjoying every part of the experience.
Focus on your mental health
There are many other ways you can ensure that you’re not feeling too homesick whilst volunteering or interning abroad. The main goal of all of these tips is to focus on your mental health! You have to do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. Talking about how you’re feeling is also very useful in overcoming homesickness. Coming to another country is a great opportunity which not everyone is able to have, so you’ve got to make the most of it!
I hope that these few tips helped get you settled into your new home away from home! Remember, as soon as you start feeling like you are “where your feet are” you’ll start enjoying every moment of being in another country. We look forward to seeing you soon!