When I came to Costa Rica I had heard of culture shock. I knew that it usually kicked in about a week or two after you got to the country, when the awe at the new place began to wear thin. However, I didn’t realize that more often than not, culture shock has to do with being horribly, terribly homesick. It’s hard to know what will make you homesick, for me it is when I don’t like the food. For my housemate it is when things aren’t going right (i.e. weather, excursions, just having a bad day). Homesickness can range from feeling blue to having 3 breakdowns in 5 minutes. But there are things you can do to make Homesickness/Culture shock less painful and focus more on the moment and on living the experience.
1. Bring tiny pieces of home. I brought pictures of close friends and family in a little photo album and thumb through it every night before I go to bed. My family also bought me a small pink stuffed unicorn before I left, because whenever my parents asked me if I needed something at the store I would retort with “I need a pink castle and a matching Unicorn”.
2. Talk about it. If you feel sad and miss home it is important to talk. Everyone misses home every once and a while, and talking not only helps you feel better but also lets others know you need a little bit of cheering up. It really does help. Whoever you choose to talk to will listen and support, reminding you of how excited you were to come and how much of an adventure you are on. They will be able to console you either with words or hugs that you will be home soon, and while you may miss home it is important to enjoy yourself and to do as much as you can.
3. Take time for you. Sometimes you need ‘You Time’. Whether it is a night in watching some TV, reading a book, or taking a nice warm shower dancing and singing to your favorite tunes, it is important to make time for you. So take some time to relax, decompress, and reenergize.
4. But not too much time. Don’t become a recluse only to be seen in class and on the occasional excursion. You will be terribly lonely and only make the homesickness work. Make an effort to reach out to people and do things. It is how you’ll make friends and it’ll will help you build a support network.
5. Try to be positive. I know. It is almost nigh impossible to think any kind of positive thought when you are thousands of miles from home. You don’t understand what anyone is saying, you hate rice and beans, are constantly on the verge of an emotional breakdown, and just might knock out the next person who looks at you funny. But thinking positive, leads to positive. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it is bad.
6. Exercise. Endorphins are good and exercise helps with stress management. The gym membership and yoga classes cost money, but there are free dance classes taught twice a week at the university. Also, it is a great opportunity to meet and make friends, and have some laughs.