Thus far, I have always said that culture shock has been the biggest adjustment for me as an international student. Between the language barriers, different foods, new customs, and just life in general in a new culture, there is a lot to soak in. And, of course, this must all happen at once. So many differences and so few consistencies in your new life can really make you miss what is familiar.
Before I left the US, I was convinced that I was too independent to experience missing my family, friends, and significant other. However, as I said, everything was completely foreign to me and I quickly began longing for anything familiar. As cliché as it is, you truly don’t know what you have until it’s gone
Before you arrive to your target country, you’ll have a slew of people give you a variety of tips on coping with the inevitable loneliness, fear, and just plain sadness. Some will tell you to distance yourself to embrace the culture shock, maybe calling mom just once a week. Others will tell you to stay connected with family and friends, making time to write letters, send emails, make calls, etc. more frequently. While getting different perspectives is helpful before your study abroad, nothing and no one can really prepare you for this. Missing your loved ones, connecting with your loved ones, and juggling culture shock in general is unique and different for each person.
With that, my first suggestion for connecting with your loved ones is to do what feels right. If you need to talk to your family every day some weeks and not at all for others, that is fine. If making a schedule with your loved ones for Skype dates works for you, go for it! No one can tell you what is right and what is wrong. You will know your own emotional needs best, and it is imperative you meet those needs in your own, healthy way.
My second suggestion is to connect with others in your target country – both with international students and locals. Making friends with people in your target country will help relieve that loneliness immensely. It’s amazing having international friends because they can relate to you in a way that no one else ever will be able to. These people understand the beautiful mess that is language and culture immersion. Here you can see me with my best friend. She has been my rock and someone I know will be my friend for life.
And as for locals, most times they are incredibly empathetic. Especially in your university, local students and staff will be more than happy to befriend you and to help you. Making friends isn’t always easy to do in general, but you have nothing to lose when you study abroad. The possibilities are endless. Taking risks will ease the longing you have for home and reap incredible benefits for your experience overall.