by Trisha Leong
University is the place where we, as young adults, discover more about ourselves and plan our futures to the furthest extents possible. Some of us push the boundaries of our learning experience even further by making the decision to continue our studies in a foreign land. By doing so, a new “friend” may continuously trail us. This is no other than: Homesickness.
Being homesick does not mean one is sick of home. Rather, it is the exact opposite, whereby individuals feel a strong sense of longing for home. Some students experience this once they have settled into their new temporary home; some feel it tugging at their heartstrings before they have even left home; and others go through this surge of longing only after a long period of being away. Knowing that it is not an uncommon occurrence, there are several things we can do to help ease the internal aches and pains that come together with the liberty of studying overseas.
First and foremost, do not underestimate the power of culture shock. We may be starkly different from the majority of others in our new homeland, be it in terms of race, language, or preferences. When in a place of a different culture, it is vital to understand and remember that certain behaviours of ours from home may not be appropriate there. For example, it is normal for us when we call strangers in Malaysia “Aunty” or “Uncle”, but it may not be so warmly welcomed in the United States. We should make reading up on the culture and norms of the country we are going to a priority, for this will contribute tremendously to helping us brace for and immerse ourselves in their nation.
One of the biggest culture shocks one can experience has to do with something a lot of us love – food. It would undeniably be a huge loss if we had to give up Malaysian food while abroad. Sure, we might be able to find a few stores offering Asian cuisines, but they are likely not prepared the way we would like them to be. So it’s time to roll up your sleeves and head to the kitchen! Don’t hold back from searching up your favourite recipes and giving your hand a try at making them yourself. Not only is it fun to be your very own chef, there just really isn’t anything like having comfort food when away from home.
Putting thoughts of food aside, note that the decision to further our studies overseas means that we will also have to say goodbye to family and friends from home. Although this can be done with ease for some, it is certainly more difficult for those who are more attached to their loved ones. Therefore, if you find yourself having great difficulty coming to terms of having to leave certain individuals behind, you should ask yourself if you are truly ready to leave home. Taking photos of the significant people or special moments in our life and pasting them near our study tables can be a great way of feeling close to home, no matter how far we are. With the wonders of the internet, we now have far fewer obstacles obstructing us from being able to contact our loved ones too. Always remember that we have the beautiful liberty to call, text, or even engage in a virtual face-to-face chat anytime and anywhere (as long as the internet doesn’t fail us), and for free!
Settling into a new environment inevitably means that we will need to adopt new routines. Some of them may be similar to our habits from home, but there are bound to be others we need time to get used to. We may need to start doing our own laundry, for example, or buying dinner every night instead of having food readily served on the dining table for us. Losing the familiarity of our surroundings can make us feel insecure or uncomfortable, but this is one of the key ways we can learn to be more independent and grow in maturity. Like a new routine, we will need to tweak our habits until we find one that we are most at ease with, and this will be achieved as time goes by.
Now, before we leave home and travel to lands far, far away, let us not neglect the time we have here. This is the time to take an abundance of photos, spend time with family and friends, and definitely, enjoy all the amazing food Malaysia has to offer. Appreciate the moments we have here, in the comfort of home, the humid neighbourhoods, lively campus and peaceful “me times”. Create as many memories as possible, and pack them all safely to bring to your new home.