Sweden has been incredible. I am learning and experiencing something new every day even if it’s just from my international roommates. These past few weeks, however, have been difficult. I have been dealing with bouts of sadness and homesickness. I really miss my family, my boyfriend, and my friends. Skyping is so wonderful (I don’t how people lived with long distance relationships before the internet age), but seeing my loved ones makes me miss them even more.
I have also been feeling pressured to make the most out of my study abroad experience now that I have just over a month left. I am constantly asking myself: am I doing enough? Am I experiencing enough? Should I be out there every minute I am not in school or working on schoolwork? The weather hasn’t been motivating me to go outside. I get really sad when I don’t feel the sun for a few days, let alone weeks. The early darkness doesn’t help either. The official sunrise is at 8:20 in the morning, and the sunset is at 3:20 in the afternoon, Twilight and long shadows are already happening at noon. Both places I have lived in California and New Mexico experience an obscene amount of sunny days. I miss the warm sunshine most of all.
The other day was the first sunny day after weeks of rain and fog. I celebrated by visiting the castle on my university campus. It was really fun, and it brightened my mood immensely. I walked down to the lake and sat by the water. I learned there is such a thing as freezing sunshine as I basked in the sun and biting cold wind. This little reprieve was all I needed to recollect my thoughts and reevaluate my study abroad experience. Here are my tips for coping with homesickness:
- Leave your room. It is so easy to feel trapped by a feeling when you’re staring at the same four walls all the time.
- Spend time with the friends you have met while studying abroad. Yes, you miss your friends at home, but you have new friends here who you may not see again for a long time if ever. Make the most out of these new friendships. Go explore somewhere new with them.
- Do something you can only do while in another country. Go to the market. Go to a cultural event like a Christmas festival. Visit the castle on campus. Sit in the town square and listen to the weekend accordion players.
- Make plans for other trips or explorations you want to make while abroad. Växjö is a beautiful, wonderful town, but it is a smaller town and not a big tourist attraction. There aren’t always events going on here. I have been to all of the touristy places in Växjö . It is nice because you can experience the authentic, small town Sweden here, but it is also nice to explore other places in Sweden and other neighboring countries.
- On that note, don’t feel pressured to constantly explore and experience your new country. It’s nice to sit back and process all of the information, experiences, and feelings you have gained from studying abroad. You don’t have to be doing something culturally significant every minute you are abroad. You are living here for an extended period of time. You aren’t a tourist, so you don’t have to constantly seek new sights and experiences.
- Volunteer. My school friend family program is a really incredible program. They match international students with local families, so they can do cultural experiences together. The friend family program was handing out pamphlets at the Christmas festival and needed international students to be present to represent the program and answer local families’ questions. I wasn’t planning on volunteering, but when I saw them, I decided to join them. It made me feel really good to represent an awesome program that has helped me so much and to give back to this program.
- Distract yourself with that schoolwork you have been avoiding. Classes are more challenging here. It is important to stay on top of your schoolwork.