Homesickness often goes hand in hand with a big move, especially if you’re moving internationally to a country very different from your own. While moving is accepted as a part of academic life, homesickness is rarely discussed. Earning your PhD can be at times challenging and stressful, which can make you miss familiar surroundings and people even more. You’re not alone in feeling this way and there are some things you can do to help get over your homesickness and start enjoying your new surroundings.
The most important thing to do is to give yourself time to adjust to your new location. It can take a year to two to feel fully settled in and adjusted to a new city. Right now, you miss the familiar people and places from where you used to live. Try to find some time to explore your new home and find some favourite spots. Visit a new neighbourhood each week, check out the local parks, or try out some different coffee shops. Once you start connecting more with your new city and finding some routines, you will start to feel more at home there.
Something else that can help you in the short term is knowing when your next trip home will be. It’s hard not knowing how long it will be until you next see your friends and family when you live far away from them. While you can’t drop by on your way home from campus anymore, you can plan the dates of your next visit. Having a trip home booked gives you something to look forward to and can help make your time away from friends and family not seem as long.
Technology has also made it easier to stay in touch with your friends and family even if you’re far from home. Messenger, What’s App, Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts all make it easy to see and talk with familiar faces from home. Homesickness hits the hardest when you feel alone with no one to talk to, which happens a lot when you move to a new place where you don’t know anyone. Chatting with a friend for an hour is a great way to feel less alone. Try to schedule regular calls with your loved one or ask them to come and visit you if it’s feasible.
At the same time, making friends in your new city will go a long way towards making you feel less homesick. It can be intimidating to put yourself out there and meet new people, so start with the people in your lab or program. Ask if you can join them for lunch or meet for coffee and pick their brain about the city. Most will be more than willing to get to know you or show you around. If you’re really struggling with homesickness, try talking to someone in your program about it. They’ve probably felt the same way recently and might be able to share their coping strategies. It can be helpful to hear that you’re not alone and that your homesickness will eventually pass.
Moving to a new place and starting a PhD is a big adjustment and it will take some time to settle into a routine. Make sure to be kind to yourself during the process.