It’s normal to feel overwhelmed when you arrive in a new country, especially if this is your first trip abroad. You may feel a desire for the comforts of home, or anxious about the distance between you and your family and friends. Don’t worry - there are plenty of ways to reduce the effects of homesickness. Here are some ways to prepare for your volunteering trip and combat homesickness while abroad.
Before you go:
-Research your destination
Travelling to a new country with a different culture can be confronting, so you may find it useful to do some research on your destination before you leave home. Watch some online videos or read blog posts from other people that have travelled and volunteered there, and find out exactly what to expect on arrival. This should reduce the culture shock and help you adjust to the destination more quickly.
-Set up a communication schedule
A large part of homesickness is missing your close relationships. One way to get through this is to set up a communication schedule with your friends and family. Can you organise a regular video call with your parents once or twice a week? Or maybe schedule time to have a daily chat with your friends via instant message? Having regular communication with the people you are close to back home should help with the distance.
Feelings of loneliness are a major downside of travelling solo. When you’re put in an unfamiliar situation with new people, it’s easy to feel like you have no one. It’s likely that there are other people on your trip that are also feeling the same way, so combat loneliness by seeking out those people and keeping each other company. A little social interaction goes a long way.
Often, homesickness will creep up on you at times when you are bored or not doing anything, such as late at night. Distractions are key to keeping your mind occupied. This might be as simple as having a conversation with someone, playing a board game, doing exercise, or cooking yourself a nice dinner. If your mind is concentrating on a task, it will be less likely to dwell on other things.
It might seem intimidating at first, but getting out of your comfort zone and discovering your destination can actually help with homesickness. Once you’ve grown accustomed to the new culture and way of life, you might find that being in a new country is much less scary than you initially thought it would be.
Your trip leader will probably have come across other volunteers that are suffering from homesickness at some stage. Talking to them about your feelings may help as they could connect you with other people that are travelling solo, or suggest activities to keep you occupied in your spare time.
It’s important to realise that homesickness is a common symptom of travelling abroad. It won’t disappear immediately, but you can expect that it will get easier to deal with as you grow accustomed to your new surroundings. Try not to let it affect your volunteering experience, and remember to make the most of your time in another country!