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Yang Safia On Friday, January 7, 2011
Depression, one of the symptoms of homesickness

Homesickness. A common phase that you are bound to go through when studying overseas. Face it, YOU WILL HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS! But that's the thing though, everyone feels, handles and experiences it differently. Some will have it so intense while some will have it not as much. And some will go through it at a different time than others.

Why does it happen?

It happens because you are taken out of your comfort zone. Now, I'm no psychologist or expert on this but I'm just stating what I feel on the matter. Your mind and body are trying to adapt to the new environment you're in. This is the time when you will have to learn how to react to the new environment and respond to the way of how things are done. Note that the things that you are used to, like paying your bills, will be done differently in the new country.

For example, in Malaysia you can pay your bills at the post office but in Japan, you can pay them at convenient stores (konbini).

Expect to face a bit of difficulty when going about your daily life as it will require you to learn to do these normal things.

I remember when I first arrived in New Zealand and found out that there's a problem with my laptop. Back in Malaysia, you can always just pop in at a local computer store and have them fix the problem there and then. But in NZ, the way they do things are waaaaaaaay different. I had to send my laptop to the HP centre (which is not even in Dunedin) and filled so many forms. And it costs so much! :(


a) Depression
b) Loneliness
c) Euphoria
d) Mixed Feelings
e) Confusion
f) Loss of Appetite
g) Fatigue

That's about much that I can list down for you guys. I'm sure there are a lot more. It's possible that you could have all of the above.

How to Handle?

a) Familiarize yourself with the new place. Go take a walk. Part of homesickness is the fear of not knowing.

b) Take things one at a time. This coupled with patience is key to surviving this phase of your life. When you're in a new country, expect ordinary things to not go your way sometimes. And mundane things can be quite hard to do. I remember back when I first arrived in Dunedin, I needed to find an Ethernet cable but since I don't know where to find it, I made a day dedicated to buy that thing. Sounds crazy yes, but when you're away from home; you just have to be patient with things. Seriously...TAKE ONE THING AT A TIME!

c) Exercise. Your body will need time to get used to the new environment so work out to stay in top shape. Also exercise lets you sweat out the extra nerves and keep your head clear and in perspective.

d) Continue your daily routine. Doing this will put you back into the usual system you have back home. Back in Malaysia, every morning I will visit all my favorite blogs and I still do this when I'm in NZ. It helps by making me feel that I'm still the normal Yang. Experiencing a slight identity crisis is normal when you're at a new place.

e) Have the understanding that everything is temporary. What you're feeling and going through is not permanent and things will get better.

f) Contact your loved ones. I find this extremely therapeutic. I'm sure there will always be counselors on hand to help you get through this phase but I feel more comfortable talking about my personal feelings with the people I love. So SKYPE,PHONE and EMAIL them!! (It's okay to contact them as much as possible, that doesn't make you a loser or anything. Understand that you're vulnerable at this time and soon this phase will pass)

g) Bring objects that remind you of home. I talked about this in the previous Guide post but make sure not to get overboard like me. Bring a favorite CD or framed pictures of your family and friends.

Culture Shock

Even the most experienced traveler will experience Culture Shock. The cause is similar to homesickness; when experiencing a new lifestyle/values/rules at your new place, it's only normal that you're...well...shocked. But keep in mind that what ever comes your way during this phase, not everything is bad. I believe that the common preconception about CS is that it will change you and everything will go downhill from there. Now the question is, is change bad?

Not always.

I've always been a firm believer in extracting the good values of a culture and practice it. You have to admit that your own culture has it's bad points so why not use this opportunity to adopt the good values of that new culture you're experiencing.

Most common attitudes that I've seen among international students is that they tend to stick to their own ethnic groups most of the time (I am somewhat in this category too) and at the end, they disregard the chance to explore the new country and its culture. I think it's okay to hang out with your own people at one point of time because I know it's comfortable but please, PLEASE don't forget why you're there in the first place. You have been given a chance that most people are unable to have so utilize it why you still can. Get to know the locals and possibly pick up the lingo while you're at it. :)

I know that some people fear that they will lose their identity by mixing with the locals or something but this all comes down to awareness. If you're aware of things that will change you in a bad way, stop doing it. There will be certain aspects of that new culture that will clash with your old one so learn to draw the line on the things you do. If your new friends love to drink but drinking is against your culture and beliefs, then you'll need to be clear and explain why you can't join them. Sounds fairly simple but many people lose themselves because of these kind of situations. Also keep in mind that if your new friends refuse to accommodate to your beliefs then they're not worth it.

So remember that everyone goes through this and you will make it through! Be aware that this period that you're going through will only make you stronger and a better person. Good Luck!