Despite the fact that most universities and companies will explain to their students and employees that homesickness and culture shock happen, a lot of people still are not prepared for them and, thus, there remains a huge stigma attached to them.
When one feels down while living abroad, the people you may confide in back home tend not to understand quite what you’re going through and some may even think that it means that you’re obviously not appreciating your time there.
“But, you’re in Japan/Italy/etc.!”
“I’d kill to be in your shoes!”
“You don’t know how lucky you are!”
Such comments will do nothing to help when you’re homesick, but the comments just keep coming; the implications of such comments are that you have no excuse to not be having the time of your life.
You might even receive some of these comments before you depart, which may make you feel like you have something to prove or live up to while abroad, which tends to only make the jitters/homesickness/culture shock worse.
What a lot of people do not realise is that homesickness does not mean that you are not enjoying yourself or that you don’t appreciate the opportunity you have been given; it is a natural part of being chucked into a foreign country and leaving everything you used to know and love behind for a while. Unfortunately, people who have never been in such a situation seem to struggle to understand the concept that there will be the occasional off days, missing home or finding it hard to adjust. Most aren’t able to comprehend that these are not a sign that you hate life abroad or that the chance was wasted on you and would have been better given to someone else.
Homesickness and culture shock affects different people in different ways, but chances are that if you live abroad for an extended period you will probably feel homesick at least once during your stay. For many, it has its ups and downs all throughout the entire period you spend abroad. Some people will get seriously depressed and find it hard to cope at all. Others will just spend the odd weekend staying in and wishing they were somewhere else. Others will find it hard to adjust at first and then be fine until the end of their life abroad.
Homesickness varies, but it almost always happens, and it’s important to remember that it’s perfectly natural. You should not let anyone else tell you otherwise or make you feel as though your feelings are somehow unjustified because of all the fun that you could or should be having while studying abroad. They are most definitely justified, but they don’t mean that you can’t still make the most of your trip either.