Missing People and Places - Dealing with Homesickness

“Homesick” by Noah Kahan

Moving from Los Angeles to New Haven was hard but nothing could prepare me for the homesickness I would feel when I moved abroad to Oxford. The first few weeks I was here were pretty rough: I didn’t know anyone, didn’t know how the academic system worked, and I so badly missed my friends back at Yale. It’s quite jarring having to reestablish daily routines and get settled in a country you’ve never been to before all while adjusting to a new academic environment. However, I can now say, three months in, that I finally feel at home here at Oxford. I’ve made amazing friends, have coffee shops and restaurants I’m a regular at, and have a daily routine. In fact, I truly can see myself living here or somewhere else in the UK post-grad. While I still have three months left and still feel homesick at times (that feeling will never really go away), here are a couple of things I’ve done to deal with my homesickness and to make Oxford feel like home.

Letters to Future Me

While I’ve never been one to journal and write about my day, I have sent letters to my future self throughout the past years. There’s a website I discovered while I was a senior in high school that allows you to write letters to your future self and email them to either arrive at a specific date or a random date in the future. Before arriving at Oxford, I wrote a few letters about what I expected Oxford to be like, what I hoped I would be doing, and the places I wanted to see while studying abroad. It was quite therapeutic and calming to write about what I wanted my time at Oxford to be like before I actually experienced it. And, it’s been very entertaining to receive and read those letters and see if anything I predicted last year to a few months ago came true (so actually did!). Now that I’m here, I’ve continued sending letters to my future self: I update future me on how I’m doing, what I’ve done, the people I’ve met, and what I expect my life to look like in a few months.

Daily Journaling

I also have now become the person who journals every day (or every other day). I write about what I did that day, how I felt, and anything else I want to clear out of my head. Although I’m very appreciative of the friends I’ve made here, my main support system is back at Yale and California. And so, I needed to find an outlet to express everything that goes on in my mind and in my life. That’s where the journaling came in. It’s helped me a lot with my homesickness as I’ve been able to reflect on how I’m feeling and move on from those emotions. It’s a part of my daily routine and something I look forward to doing at the end of my day. I also am not reading back my entries until after my time at Oxford ends because I want to see the progression of my experiences and the growth I already know I’ve had.

Connecting with Family and Friends (New and Old)

Considering the 8-hour time difference between myself and my family in California and the 5 hour time difference with my friends at Yale, connecting with people I love has been quite the challenge. Although, it’s not impossible. I’ve strategically planned out Facetimes, calls, and texts to make sure that it’s too late for me or too early for them. Even though life here has gotten pretty busy and somewhat chaotic, I’ve made it a priority to stay connected with my friends and family. In addition to constantly posting stories on my Instagram for my close friends, I’ve also tried to set up scheduled dates to chat and catch-up with people. On Fridays, I Facetime my best friends, I call my parents almost every day, and text everyone else in between.

I’ve also made it a priority to connect with new people and make new friends while being here. It can be easy to keep to yourself and stay home after moving to a new place, especially if you’re a bit shy like me. The first few days I was here at Oxford, I was absolutely scared of everything and hadn’t yet pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone. However, once I decided to push myself, I started to meet new people and I found myself developing some amazing friendships. We’ve gone on day trips together, had study sessions, created a movie night tradition, and have all helped each other with our homesickness (my friends are also studying abroad). And so, while I strongly suggest making it a priority to keep in touch with friends and family back home, I also highly recommend branching out and meeting new people you can share experiences with and collectively experience homesickness together. 

Bits of Yale Abroad

The last thing I would suggest if you’re struggling with homesickness and missing people and places is to bring parts of those places and memories of those people with you. In my dorm, I have pictures of my family and friends and proudly display a Yale flag. I also walk around with a Pauli Murray keychain attached to my wallet, my Yale water bottle, and my backpack with Yale University Art Gallery pins. They remind me of my second home whenever I look at them and have brought me a piece of New Haven while abroad. Whether small or big, these symbols of the places that I miss and the people that I can’t wait to see have helped me feel excited about arriving at Yale once again and finally hugging my friends and family. Homesickness is rough and even when you’re making new friends and having phenomenal experiences, that feeling will always be there. However, it’s not meant to stop you from enjoying where you are and the things you’re doing.