Studying abroad in Australia will be one of the most surprising, confusing and exhilarating times of your life. You’ll meet heaps of people, live in a spectacular landscape and come face-to-face with words and phrases that make absolutely no sense (see our modern guide to Australian slang for some help). Even though you may be having the time of your life, feelings of homesickness can creep in every now and then. A natural and often inevitable part of relocating, homesickness is a sign of distress which can manifest in anxious and depressive behaviours. While you may find that these feelings go away as you begin to settle into life in Australia, it can also have a debilitating effect on your travels.
To assist, we’ve come up with four useful pointers to help you combat homesickness and get the most out of your Australian experience.
While adapting to your new surroundings is an exciting part of any overseas trip, it can be a little overwhelming at first. To help the settling in process, you may find that replicating some of your favourite habits from home will make it easier to adjust to your new life in Australia. Establishing eating, sleeping and exercise routines similar to the ones you followed back home can be really useful in easing initial feelings of ‘culture shock’. If you went to the gym every morning in your home country, why not look into a membership for the duration of your stay? You could even forego the gym and move your exercise routine outdoors to save money – it also doubles as an opportunity to explore the Australian environment. If it’s food from home that you’re missing, try and get into the habit of cooking your favourite meals on the same day every week. You could try something in the vein of ‘Pasta Thursdays’, where you whip up a pasta dish that you’re craving every Thursday night. Not only does this provide a nice reminder of home, but it also helps you plan and budget your lifestyle expenses. This concept would work well if you’re living with other international students – bonding over culture and cuisine is a great way to collectively combat homesickness. If you’re not the handiest of cooks, make it a mission to regularly search your new city for the best version of your favourite home-cooked meals.
Fitting into a new university in a foreign country is like starting school all over again. It’s quite a daunting prospect, particularly when it’s culturally and linguistically different to your home country. While you may feel like an outsider at first, take solace from the fact that there’s other people in the same position as you. It’s imperative that you join the programs and events run by universities for international students, as you’ll come across students from all over the world who will be sharing these feelings of isolation and uncertainty. Try to establish some friendships with other international students – having some companions will help you settle in, and it’ll be useful to debrief feelings of homesickness with someone who’s experiencing something similar. Orientation activities are a great place to learn some familiar faces before the start of semester while simultaneously giving you a feel for the campus. Once classes have started, consider joining one the many student societies or clubs run by your host university – there’s sure to be one that appeals to your interests! It may be a big step out of your comfort zone, but it’s also a great way to really immerse yourself in your new environment. Signing up for a sports club will keep you fit and introduce you to new people while keeping you preoccupied. Look into film clubs or theatre groups if you’re more of a creative type. Attending some of your university’s social events is a great way to bond with your new-found friends and create some fun memories that will help you settle into life in Australia. While universities have plenty to offer, you could also explore your local community for events and activities that interest you. Joining a regular arts class or attending a local festival could be helpful in warding off feelings of homesickness.
One of the best things about studying abroad is the first-hand experience of another culture. This may be the last thing you’re interested in if you’re feeling homesick, but embracing your new environment can be crucial in helping you settle in. Before you leave home, do some research and work out everything that you’d like to see or do during your time in Australia. Turn this into a bucket list of places to see and things to experience on your trip and endeavour to complete everything before you return home. Start to chip away at your Aussie bucket list by going sightseeing when you can – not only will it keep you busy, but it’ll give you something to look forward to when you start to yearn for home. If you’re still struggling, try to immerse yourself in all that Australian lifestyle has to offer. Food is a great start – have Vegemite on toast for breakfast, fall in love with Tim Tams and enjoy the delicacy that is a sausage sizzle. Australians love their sport and you’ll have no trouble finding a game of Aussie Rules football, rugby or cricket being played on grounds across the country on a weekend. Settle down on the couch and get a feel for Australian television or turn on the radio to listen to some Aussie music. A spot of retail therapy could also be useful and with many local and international designers to choose from, you won’t be short of options. Purchasing a special item can help you feel like you’re fitting in, while also providing a nice memento of Australia for when you return home. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on what’s happening in your new city – you’ll find that there’s often plenty of activities and events on the go.
When homesickness really hits, it’s tempting to spend most of your time talking to everyone back home. While it is crucial to maintain contact with your family and friends, be careful to not let it overtake your travels when you’re feeling homesick. You may find it beneficial to schedule in regular contact by establishing the days and times that you’ll talk over the phone or on Skype. Routinising your interaction with home not only ensures that you’ll be in regular contact, but also gives you something to look forward to when you’re feeling homesick. Sharing your travels with family and friends by sending through photos is another way to feel like you’re being kept in the loop. It also gives you the chance to show off your newly-acquired knowledge on all things Australia – you’ll be surprised by how much you’ve learned! Sending regular postcards can help bridge the gap between home and away, and receiving one from an exotic, far away place is always appreciated.
If you’re still struggling or would simply just like to talk to someone, please seek out the international support services provided by your institution. They can provide advice on adjusting to life in Australia, as well as directing you towards on-campus counselling services. Don’t be afraid to speak out if you’re experiencing some difficulties – the sooner you work through them, the sooner you can get back to enjoying your study abroad experience!