“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
– Jack Kerouac. On the Road.
One of the hardest aspects of acclimating to a new city can be keeping in touch with your friends and family. It’s likely that part of your time abroad will be spent balancing your relationships back home, romantic or otherwise. Long-distance relationships of all types can be difficult. Whether you’re dealing with a time difference or a faulty internet connection, it’s easy to get frustrated. On one hand, you want to spend every second of your time exploring and adventuring in your new city, but on the other hand, you don’t want feel like you’re missing out on things at home. When the situation gets tough, we suggest taking a deep breath and following these seven tips.
- Maintain expectations
In the weeks leading up to your departure, you may find yourself making promises of daily phone calls and weekly video chats. While your friends and family will surely understand if these promises aren’t fulfilled, it’s best to set expectations before you leave. Your first few days abroad are going to be filled with sightseeing, adventures, and new friends. Our advice? Let everyone at home know that you have arrived safely at your destination and that you look forward to filling them in more in a few days or so. After this, take the opportunity to get to know your city and the people who are likely to become your lifelong friends.
- Set a schedule
After your first week in your host country, you’re likely to have a better understanding of what your days will look like. Use this time to set a schedule for keeping in touch with everyone back home. Set a day each week (or every other week) to catch up. Let your loved one(s) know you’ll be signed on to Skype from 1pm – 3pm or that you’ll call them in the evening every Monday. Find a schedule that works best for you and do your best to stick to it.
Note: There are bound to be days when you’ll want to embark on an impromptu adventure or something of the sort. Be sure to take each and every one of these opportunities! Let your friends and family know that you won’t be able to talk that day, but you’ll fill them in on your post-adventure stories when you return.
- Use Skype/Google Hangouts/Etc.
The next best thing to being there is virtually being there. Video chatting, as many of you may know, can be far better than a phone call and can help reduce any feelings of homesickness. Using video also gives you the opportunity to “show them around” your dorm/apartment/host family’s home. If your internet gives out or your friend’s face starts to look like a rubik’s cube, move on to Tip #5…
- Start a blog
A blog can be a great space to share your thoughts and stories, without having spend too much time cooped up with your computer. Whether you log on once a week or once every couple weeks, your friends and family will enjoy being able to hear more about your life abroad. Many blogs can also be set to “invite only”, allowing you to share your photos, videos, and stories with a select group of people. If you choose to set your blog to public, keep in mind that this may be viewable by future employers and grad school admissions officers – use the opportunity to showcase your writing skills and other creative talents you have!
- Use messaging apps
Phone bills can reach the “astronomical” level before you can say ciao. As opposed to racking up minutes on your phone or spending precious time loading up your international SIM card, we suggest making use of the nearest available Wi-Fi hotspot. Messaging apps, such as Whatsapp, WeChat or Viber, offer options for free calling, messaging, and video chat. Don’t have a smart phone? WeChat and Viber are both available for download on your PC or Mac.
- Steer clear of social media
Logging in every once in a while to message with friends or post a photo can be great, but make sure that social media isn’t distracting from other activities. Spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can occasionally spark feelings of homesickness or make you feel like you’re missing out on fun events happening back home. If/when this happens, it’s best to take a step away and remember all the wonderful memories you’re making abroad. In the meantime, find comfort in the fact that everything will still be there the next time you log in. Besides, “unplugging” while you’re away can feel invigorating.
- Don’t count the days
Feeling the urge to count down the days until your homecoming can be very common, and it’s likely your friends and family will want to help you. However, we recommend that you steer clear of the calendar and make the most of your time. Many of those who’ve been abroad will tell you that one of the first emotions they felt when they returned home was homesickness… for their host country. This feeling, known as reverse culture shock, is very common. The only way to help ease the pain is to know that you spent every last minute of your time exploring and enjoying your home away from home.
No matter how you choose to keep in touch, just be sure that you enjoy every moment of your time abroad! Fill your boyfriend/girlfriend, friends, and family in when you can, give them a call when you’re feeling homesick, and send them photos from you travels. When you’re not doing this, spend as much time as possible exploring your new “home” and away from your computer or phone.