For some, homesickness can hugely impact their life when they’re living abroad. Whether that’s because they have a strong group of friends at home who they do everything with or that they’re close to their family who provide a support network, or perhaps because they’re in long-distance relationship. For me at least, homesickness has never been a huge problem: I have lived away from home for months at a time since I went on my gap year. Subsequently, being away from my family has never been that trial some. However, at the beginning of my time in Copenhagen, numerous considerations meant that I found myself understanding why people can become so homesick.
What has made it different compared to other times I have been away? Multiple factors. The primary reason is that I moved to Copenhagen during my second year at university. This meant that, both at home and at KU, everyone had found a solid group of friends. As a result, it made making friends here more difficult and nostalgia about my friends at home stronger. Second, just before I left for Copenhagen, I unexpectedly got into a relationship and we decided that we would try to keep it going long distance, despite countless stories about how it ‘never works’. Whilst I can now say that long distance can work, it hasn’t always been easy and added another person to my ‘miss’ list.
Additionally, my family moved house just when I left Britain, meaning that it is strange to think that, when I go home, I will be in a home I am not used to and do not recognise. On top of this, I decided not to go into student accommodation, which meant that I spent my first few weeks in Copenhagen frantically trying to find a place to live. These four factors are the main reasons that have made living in Copenhagen different to when I have lived in other places. Whilst I do not miss home very often, when I do it can cause me to feel lonely and, admittedly, slightly confused because it is not a feeling I am used to. As a result, I do things to ensure the homesickness does not swallow me up and become worse.
Reality vs social media
In a time when everyone’s daily life posted on social media – whether that be Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr – it can be hard to understand that your friends, celebrities and strangers are not living the dream every waking moment of their life. Obviously that it is how their lives are portrayed on social media; rarely do people post the negatives of their life because that is not what they want others to see. Consequently, it appears as though your friends are having the time of their lives without you. Apparently, that party they went to was the so amazing that everyone will be talking about it for the next year; all your friends were there, you had to be on a list to get in and no one spent half the night helping their friend as they threw up in the toilet. Of course not, because it wasn’t posted on social media. And, if it was, it’s funny anyway, right? These posts on social media may look convincing and make you think that you’re missing out on fun at home.
However, it’s important to remember that people’s lives are not like that. They do not spend every evening drinking cocktails and lounging in the sun (especially not in Manchester where most of the year we see rain). You’re the one on a semester abroad, experiencing a different culture, meeting new people and discovering interesting places. Whilst you may feel low on certain days when it’s raining – or snowing or hailing according to Copenhagen’s weather – ultimately, you’re living Copenhagen and no Facebook picture of pancakes at brunch is better than that. This is what I remind myself of if I’m ever stuck inside the library working when I’d rather be outside. Each day you live here in Copenhagen, you’re doing something new and exciting everyday in reality rather than in an Instagram.
A hangover and lots of self-pity
I think the worst times for homesickness are the days when I have a terrible hangover. This was the case in my house at university in Manchester and it’s the case here. For those of us who aren’t superhuman – i.e. productive friends who get home at 6am and are at uni or the gym the next day at 9am – a hangover means self-pity, hanger and exhaustion. For me, these three things equate to missing home: the only thing I want when I’m hungover is someone to look after me. Friends aren’t likely to do this because they’re probably feeling the exact same way and so that leaves you missing you parents. With this, the addition of living miles away in Copenhagen makes the ability to seek a familial remedy even harder.
My housemate has one rule to overcome this homesick hangover: if you’re hungover, either take the day off and treat yourself or get up, get out and overcome the hangover. Ideally, if you’re the hungover type who becomes a sloth stuck to a duvet all day, then put on a good film, surround yourself with other people in the same situation (you can feel sorry both for yourselves and each other together) and write that day off. Since you’ve written the day off, FaceTime your friends or family to tell them about the night before and have them laugh at your expense. Surrounding yourself with people – whether virtually or physically – will make you forget about needing to be looked after by those at home. If you’re the type of person that can function on a hangover, you probably don’t need any advice about life.
The fear of Facetime
What I really needed to do to get over my homesickness when I first arrived was overcome my fear of FaceTime and Skype. Personally, I am not a fan of phone calls or FaceTime: I like talking to people when I can see their expressions gestures and not have them breaking up due to bad signal. As you can imagine, this proved to be a bit of a problem when I first arrived in Copenhagen. People were constantly asking me to call and FaceTime them, but it was not my idea of a good conversation.
Clearly, however, my attitude towards this was not going to work because I wanted to talk to people when I missed them. Consequently, I had to get over my dislike of phone calls and FaceTime. If you too are not a fan of these methods of contact, I suggest you just deal with them and understand that, ultimately, they will help if you’re feeling homesick. Not only this, but they allow people from home to see where you live, what you’re doing and how you are. Simply being able to put a place to a name will help them understand how you’re living and thus help miss you less, which in turn can help you feel more connected to them.
These things you can do to help with homesickness may seem small and insignificant, but they do help a lot. Even just understanding that everyone here is in the same boat can help you feel more comfortable about living away from home. Whilst some people here may claim that they never get homesick, the chances are that they do, but they just don’t admit to it or show it. This can make some feel more alone and lost. Voicing how you feel (both to others here and at home) enables you to do something about it and feel closer to others.