Language immersion programs or student exchange programs are amazing, life-changing experiences. You meet new people, improve your language skills, learn about different cultures and get to be part of a second family. But what if you get the blues?
Especially if you do an end-of-year exchange over Christmas (like many of our exchange students right now), you might get a little homesick. Nothing to worry about – that’s completely normal.
We can’t promise that these tips will stop you from missing your family on Christmas, but we’re certain that it will help a little!
Traditions are wonderful, wherever in the world you are. Do what the locals do and even if some things might seem a little weird to you, don’t judge but try! Always keep an open mind. Not only will this make your own trip better, but you’ll certainly impress your hosts as well!
It might be tempting to stay in your room and call friends and family back home, but that’s the opposite of what you should be doing when feeling blue. Instead, overexpose yourself to the issues that make you feel homesick. For example, if you feel uncomfortable at your host family’s home during the first few days, make sure you spend time with them whenever possible. After dinner, stay with them, have a chat, watch a movie together (you could show them some Australian movies) and come along to family functions. Soon, you will feel a lot more relaxed.
A language immersion is not only about the exchange student learning about a new culture, but also about the host family getting to know their guest’s traditions. On Christmas, why not host a little ‘Aussie’ party? Not only tell, but show your host family what you normally do on Christmas. Sure, you can’t go to the beach, but you could have a good’ol Aussie Barbie! Bring some food from home and make your host family try different things (I can tell you exactly what they’ll think about Vegemite!). You could also bring some Christmas crackers and introduce them to your host family on Christmas Day.
Being away from home for an extended period of time, you will most likely miss out on a few events. If you scroll through Facebook every day, you’ll see what your friends are up to and it can make you want to be there. Realise that what you have is a much more unique and exciting experience. If you do use Social Media, do it to show the world what an amazing time you’re having abroad!
Write a list of all the things you want to see while staying in your new country. What are the typical things every visitor has to see and try when there? Slowly tick off all points on your list. That will help you to make the most of your stay and distract you from the things you miss.
Take lots of photos. Firstly, because you’ll always want to remember your experience abroad, and secondly, because it will show your hosts and new friends that you’re interested, engaged and excited. Plus, it gives you a bit of a chance to hide behind a camera when you’re a bit shy at the beginning.
And with others, I don’t mean your parents or friends back home. Tell your hosts if you’re feeling homesick or lonely. They need to know what’s going on in order to help you. It is completely normal and happens to almost everyone, so there’s no reason to be ashamed. You don’t need to always put on a happy face; have a chat, get it all out and move on J
This is probably the most relevant advice we can give you. Have a chat to your parents, send them some photos every few days and keep them posted about what you’re doing. But don’t overdo it!
Calling someone back home every day is definitely not the right way to beat homesickness. You need to keep some distance if you fully want to immerse yourself. Try to make this clear at the beginning or before you leave. Explain that you feel like you might feel a bit homesick, and you don’t want to have contact all the time to prevent this. Surely, everyone will understand.
The first few days in your new family will probably feel like forever, but there weeks or months will be over before you know it. At the end, you’ll think ‘where did the time go?’. A language immersion is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So don’t spend too much time worrying, keep yourself busy and enjoy!