Growing up, I never imagined that living abroad would change my outlook on life. Even some of the little things that I had seen, tasted or experienced could greatly enrich my everyday life.
One day, as I was sitting at my university cafe eating a butter croissant, my current obsession, my friend and I began to discuss life abroad. She very wisely said, “Living abroad introduces you to a fresh perspective on everyday things.” I remember thinking, what an interesting way of describing exactly what I was feeling.
As an Indian, I grew up with many untouchable rules related to, of course, food. Drinking a hot cup of chai for breakfast is one of the many examples. After living in London, I came back home, to the country of chai, breaking many rules, and I can truly say I changed as a human being.
Having lived in Pune all my life, I wasn’t used to spending time outside in the rain almost every day. Living in rainy England and walking around for hours in my “wellies”, I have learned to overcome my laziness and try a more creative approach to rainy days. Whether that meant enjoying a peaceful walk in the park or running to the tube station to make it to class on time, I understood that if I want to do something, but it involves me being inconvenienced, so be it. I can make the most out of every day, no matter what the weather is like.
If you struggle with loneliness, try the practice of mindfulness meditation.
When you move to another country, albeit for a limited amount of time, you learn to really appreciate and cherish your time there. Make your days count by fully living them. Learning to prioritize my time to be productive in the evening after classes and planning weekend getaways with new friends, is a completely new learning curve.
Of course, with every well-planned day came its own set of challenges. Life abroad is filled with fantastic opportunities but also big challenges. From feeling lost, emotionally and geographically, to struggling with making new friends, moving abroad and mastering a new lifestyle can be tough. You probably feel a little melancholia that we refer to as “homesickness.” For me, it was always at its peak during the winter. At that time of the year, I devoured the sunshine and fresh food that I so dearly missed. Even though I was full of sunshine to be living abroad, some days were just grey and drab.
To help you cope with this feeling of loneliness, and win this emotional battle, here are some tried and true methods that will tide you over.
1. Create a Routine
Create a new routine for yourself so you have something to ground you, and keep you invested in each moment and each task you undertake. Start by finding your favourite restaurant for breakfast, walk as much as you can to keep the happy hormones going, and establish a bedtime routine. I always found that tiring myself out during the day would keep all the memories of home at bay.
2. Make New Friends
Loneliness is the biggest trigger behind feeling homesick. It’s normal to miss your familiar environment but think of it as a great opportunity to share new experiences with people from all walks of life. Make the most of it. Be curious and keep an open mind. I promise you’ll do more than just prevent loneliness. The best part of studying abroad is all the new people you’ll get to meet.
3. Stay Busy
If school and your routine aren’t enough to keep you busy, try something local and recreational. Exercise will help your brain release endorphins. I always found attending a gym or yoga class as a great way to socialize and meet my fitness goals. I found my solace in these places and banked on the mental and physical stimulation.
4. Stop Comparing Your New City to Home
As human beings, we are wired to compare things. To measure every new development in life against the past and find out what’s right and wrong, good or bad. Sometimes all you see is the innumerable positives waiting for you back home. But when you find yourself in this spiral, remember that every place has its good and bad and is enriching and unique.
Leaving what’s known and familiar and jumping on a flight to a new world is always full of challenges that every student knows all too well. But every new beginning, every new friend, and every new culture you experience leaves a mark. It teaches you lessons that you take with you subconsciously for the rest of your life.