Abigail in Copenhagen

Abigail, a senior double majoring in human rights, and public relations and strategic communications, is spending the fall semester in Copenhagen, Denmark participating in the Danish Institute for Study Abroad Justice and Human Rights program.

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Overcoming Homesickness While Studying Abroad: Five Ways

Oct. 8, 2016

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Ah, the dreaded homesickness. For as many times as I was told how much I was going to love Copenhagen, I was also warned by former abroad students that studying abroad can be difficult and sometimes lonely. You’d think in the world’s happiest country it’d be difficult to stay blue for long. However, for as much fun as I’m having, life abroad is not perfect (surprise!). I’ve dealt with my fair share of homesicknesses. While homesickness is unavoidable and perfectly natural, it’s important to not let it control your experience. Here I’ve compiled some of my go-to habits for overcoming seasons of homesickness:

  1. Do something you love
Spending time with good friends can make you feel right at home.

Spending time with good friends can make you feel right at home.

What makes you tick? What makes your passion come alive? Contrary to popular belief, you are still you even when you go abroad. That means that interacting with people who share your passions and engaging in those passions is just as important abroad as it is at home. Love to dance? Find a local dance class! Play soccer? Join a recreational soccer team! Luckily DIS does a wonderful job of connecting students to local organizations and clubs that cater to a wide variety of interests and hobbies. I find that it really centers me when I’m engaging in an activity that I love–whether that be watching a movie with my friends on a Friday night, or taking a jog around the lake. So much of your time abroad will be taken up with scheduled activities, traveling and classes, but participating in an activity that you enjoy can re-energize and prepare you for more new experiences.

2. Keep up with your routines

It’s easy to keep up with your fitness routine when your evening jogs look like this.

It’s easy to keep up with your fitness routine when your evening jogs look like this.

Remember, you are not here on vacation. You are living abroad. It’s OK, and even encouraged, for you to take time for the rest you need, and to even develop some habits abroad. I know others may disagree, but the massive amount of lifestyle changes you undergo living abroad is enough to overwhelm any sane individual. Retaining some habits from home, I’ve found can really provide a good framework for adventuring and pushing yourself. Decide what’s really important to you from your home routine. For example, in the States I exercise at least three times a week. While I haven’t joined a gym in Copenhagen, I’ve adjusted my workouts to make sure I’m staying active. I also love to wake up early and spend time journaling and reading my Bible, which I’ve continued to do this semester. Yes, studying abroad is about pushing yourself, but developing routines is an essential part of maintaining your mental and physical health. This can only enhance your experience.

3. Indulge in a comfort from home

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me food is an integral part of feeling at-home. It sounds silly, but some of my most homesick moments have been sudden cravings for Tex-Mex or homemade pancakes or coffee with almond milk and honey. I was shocked when I came to Denmark and realized peanut butter is relatively non-existent in Danish food culture. Never fear my friends! Where there is a will, there is a way, and that certainly applies to satisfying homesick cravings in Denmark. The Glass Market and Paper Island are wonderful street food areas that offer a variety of international cuisines (including tacos that tasted just like home). And you can find almost all staple American foods in Danish supermarkets (though you may have to search a little harder, and they may taste slightly different). So make that PB & J, gosh dang! (Food hack: hit up Føtex if you’re looking for American-style peanut butter). Indulging in a comfort food from home can temporarily satisfy when you’re feeling blue.

4. Video-chat your loved ones (but not too often)

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Loved ones

Video chat is truly a gift from above. Although texting and online messaging satisfies the day-to-day needs of communication with family members and friends, there is nothing like seeing the smiling face of your dearest friend or your mother, and having a long conversation with him or her. Of course, FaceTiming your mom every day may be a bit excessive, and can actually make you homesick. However, a healthy dosage of communication with your loved ones can help hold you over when you feel like you won’t last another day in this strange country.

5. Remember. Remember. Remember.

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Remember what? Remember that this is once-in-a-lifetime. Remember that you will never be this young, never be this free, never be this independent again in your life. Remember that every day abroad is a day to treasure (even the crappy ones, because they are full of personal growth). Remember how much your family and friends love you. Remind them how much you love them, too. Remember that life is going on as normal at home, but that doesn’t mean you’re missing out. Remember that you are so incredibly lucky to be having this opportunity, even when it challenges you. But most of all, remember that your time abroad is brief. There is a finish line to this semester, and whether that makes you sad or gives you hope, it serves it’s purpose, and it hopefully helps you to seize every opportunity presented to you.

Vi ses!

This post originally appeared on the A Coffee Girl in Copenhagen blog

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