Gabriela Küsters is an Erasmus student from the University of Applied Sciences in Holland. Gabriela also works as a website reporter at her home university and studies journalism and newswriting at the London School of Journalism.
Leaving home for the first time is probably one of the hardest things to go through in life. Watching your mom wave you goodbye with tears in her eyes, while you are getting checked by security at the airport, is absolutely heartbreaking. You would think that once seated in the plane, things would start to get easier – well, unfortunately, they don’t. After arriving at your final destination, getting settled and comfortable in your new home, the worst is yet to come: homesickness.
So, what to do when you start looking for your mother’s home cooking, the comfort of your siblings or the presence of your friends back home? Homesickness is hard and tough, but there are ways to cope with it when it finally shows up to bite you in the face.
I went around town, talking to foreign students, asking them what their solutions were when feeling homesick. I found a few foreign students who were willing to share their recipes and solutions for the all-so-damned homesickness. Meet Kasey and Ammar.
Kasey is an exchange student from Hong Kong and is in Tartu for one semester. This is his first time living alone, and so far he is enjoying his stay far away from home. “I like living on my own, but sometimes I miss home, my family, the food and just the whole environment. Luckily I have great roommates who make me feel comfortable here”.
Ammar is from Pakistan and studies Business Administration at the University of Tartu. He is in his first year and plans to continue studying in Europe for his master’s degree, so he is still a long time away from home. “I miss my family and sometimes I just feel like talking to them. It can be lonely at times, but I deal with it by spending time with my friends. Going out with them and having fun makes me feel better and it helps me cope with my homesickness”.
Although the majority of foreign students arrive in Tartu with the plan on staying for a couple of years before they go back home, there are a few cases of students who have come, stayed and do not want to leave. This is the case of Michael from the USA. He has completed his studies, finished his masters’ degree and, eight years later, is still happily living in Tartu.
Homesickness can be hard for students to deal with. Although it is thrilling to be on your own, being away from the comfort of your house, parents and home country for the first time is rough. Oftentimes, the ESN crew helps to soothe that problem by creating events for students to meet new people. On the 17th of October, for instance, they created a culture fair where international students got the opportunity to bring a piece of their homes to Tartu. It was a great experience for everyone.
However, although making new friends and letting other people in can be very satisfying and helpful, nothing beats seeing the faces of your family and hearing their voices once again. While some are privileged to be able to go back home for the weekends, if home is Latvia, Russia or Finland, others have to satisfy themselves with Skype calls and emails, wishing for Christmas to come soon for them to fly back home.
In the meantime, while Christmas is not here, many students choose to fill their time by hanging out together and comforting each other. After all, with their real family so far away, they might as well form new ones here, in the heart of Tartu.
Coping with homesickness is really difficult. There is no appropriate way to deal with it or to get over it. Nevertheless, one thing is sure: It doesn’t really matter how you cope with homesickness, as long as you have someone else to help you cope with it.
Be sure to check out the video, in which Ammar tells you how he copes with his homesickness and also visits the ESN fair: