Departing Students

Coping with Homesickness

When the novelty of arriving in a new country begins to wear off, many students find themselves overwhelmed with feelings of homesickness.  Language barriers can exacerbate this, making it hard for students to make friends or to immerse themselves in the culture of the country as much as they would have liked.
Some students who have gone to JTA in the past, however, have shared these coping tips:
(1) Learn the language before you leave.  If you are going to a country where the dominant language is foreign to you, learn as much of the language as you can. The Modern Languages Department, the Ateneo Center for Asian Studies, the Confucius Institute in Ateneo and the Japanese Studies Program all offer language classes.  Off-campus institutions such as Alliance Française and Goethe Institut also offer language classes.
(2) Make friends.  Participate in college life so that you don't feel isolated. Join college organizations, or mingle with other international students at your destination university.  Many destination universities have programs to help international students manage.
(3) Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Find out what formal support structures there are at your destination university: the guidance office, the office of international relations, student advisors, and your teachers.  Don't forget that there is support back home as well:  e-mail your JTA coordinator or the Ateneo OIR to share with them what you're going through.  Or share your experiences with the SOH JTA Facebook group or mailing list, if you feel the need to get in touch again with other Ateneans who might be undergoing similar experiences.
(4) Keep an open mind.  The JTA experience may not have been exactly as you first imagined it.  However, the very fact of being in a new place, exposed to a new culture, can be nothing but enriching if you allow it to be. Try to maintain a sense of wonder through your stay.
As one student put it: homesickness is normal, but try not to dwell so much on your homesickness that the entire study-abroad experiences passes you by.