A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Your study abroad experience is very much a personal journey. And although the benefits of embarking on such a journey are manifold, practicing healthy coping strategies, especially when things don’t go to plan or haven’t met your expectations (so far), are very important to managing and succeeding in your studies.
Back when I started my programme at Campus The Hague, homesickness hit me unexpectedly and unrelentingly. I was trying to adjust to this new Dutch environment, pursuing a highly demanding study, all whilst my support network at home collapsed overnight. What was once balanced now felt like chaos; everything had changed beyond my control.
Although my experience was certainly brought about by a severe event, I have recognised over the years, that I haven’t been the only one burdened by (acute) homesickness — in fact, far from it. Even though everyone can experience the condition differently, it would be helpful, if not critical, to take homesickness seriously. Particularly now, as academic pressure is building up and we’re venturing into the holiday season.
Homesickness needs to be understood as a nondiscriminatory condition, and not brushed aside as an episode of weakness. Left unaddressed, it can impact academic performance and may lead to further performance inhibiting conditions, such as depression and anxiety. It thereby deserves to be brought to the attention of all students, particularly international students, who are at a greater risk of social isolation.
If you’re finding it difficult to focus on your studies because you’re suffering from homesickness, hopefully the following advice will help you cope better in the future:
Give Yourself Time to Adjust
Leaving a familiar place is certainly an act that deserves more credit. Even though you’re distracted by thoughts of home, don’t beat yourself up. What is important to acknowledge is that detached from your established support network, you have now become your own primary carer. Recognise what it is that you need and act accordingly. Scheduling in time for what’s important to you, along side of your academic responsibilities, will increase productivity. It will ease distracting thoughts and give you a sense of control. Set goals (academic goals, social goals, sporting goals or travel goals) and give it time.
That said, do stay in touch with home. Your parents or other significant persons can still support you. Rather than continuously trying to reach out to people on every single social media platform, schedule in quality Skype calls. Maintaining a structure for “catching up”, will give you something to look forward to. It will also allow others enough time to able to listen to you, and offer you the support and guidance that you need.
Do make use of the facilities available to you through the University. Start by talking to your course coordinator. Support services are available through both your faculty and Plexus. At Plexus you can check-in to see one of the ‘psychological counsellors’ during walk-in hours, 11:00am-12:00pm, Monday to Friday.
For more information, please see: