Immigrating to a new country can be so exciting, thinking about all the adventures waiting for you, the people you’ll meet, and the places you’ll explore. Everything is new and a novelty, and it’s so nice to have a break from your town, city, and country for a while. When you’re abroad, you feel like you can be whoever you want to be and do whatever you genuinely want to do.

But what happens when you’re feeling all these emotions, and also feeling homesick? It’s important to know both of these feelings are normal and valid. Simultaneously you can be excited to be away and also miss home.

Back in 2011, I made the leap from Ireland to Vancouver and was very excited to start a new chapter of my life. I had heard such great things about Vancouver and couldn’t wait to visit the beaches, hike in the mountains and learn to ski. It was a welcome break after years in the same job and same town, and I couldn’t wait to explore the gulf islands and the rest of BC.

However, while I was having so much fun, and diving headfirst into meeting new people and doing new things, I was also quite sad and homesick. I was confused – isn’t this what I wanted, was it not all so exciting? The answer is yes, AND it’s also ok to miss friends and family back home, to miss the familiarity and the easiness of life at home. Change can be both good and difficult as we adjust to a new place.

There is a different culture in BC, there are different ways of working and of being and it can feel hard to fit in. Your own culture may have a different sense of humour, or work ethic and different values or priorities. For me, sometimes I have to explain my sarcasm to some Canadians who take things very literally.

So what can you do to help with this transition, or even the ongoing homesickness if you’ve been abroad for a while?

  • Stay connected, thanks to tech: Reaching out to friends and family back home via Facetime, Whatsapp, social media or a good old-fashioned phone call can help to reconnect you with your culture and fill your ‘home’ cup.
  • Get out and explore: Decide on what you want to see or do while you’re abroad! Whether it’s hiking that trail with killer views, skiing or trying out the local cuisine, having goals to smash can keep your focus forward. I had a list of everything I wanted to do on my wall and would cross each off as I achieved it.
  • Be social: Make new friends, hang out with existing friends, join a sports team or a pub quiz night. These new connections will help you build a fun and supportive community.
  • Talk it out: Sometimes it’s hard to talk to friends about how you’re feeling. Seeing a therapist and being in a safe and private place can help you to offload some of those emotions and talk through how you are really feeling.
  • Build a good routine: If you have no routine, it is easy to fall into bad sleeping and eating habits, and increased social media time. Having a daily structure filled with work, activities, exercise, rest, and social time can help with focus and purpose.

Remember, it’s okay to miss home while you’re out there chasing your dreams. So, embrace the ups and downs, lean on your support system, and ride that wave of excitement and homesickness like a pro. You’ve got this!

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