I have been living thousands and thousands of miles away from my parents for almost 6 years now. I cant really believe it has been that long, I still remember the first night I spent living in Australia after leaving my parents in the UK. I had lived away during university but this was the first move that made it impossible for me to return for the weekend.
Those first few days are so clear in my memory, I arrived in Melbourne on Friday 8th of January 2010 and it 37 degrees celsius. I had managed to line up a job to begin on the Monday and I had rented a bed in a hostel in the centre of the city until I could find a place. The whole weekend I walked around trying to get my bearings. The city was a grid yet still I got lost. I was alone without any one to call in a city where it seemed everyone had plans.
I remember the Saturday afternoon after a day of wandering around the city I returned to my hostel, hot, tired and deflated. I felt lost, far from home in an impersonal inner city hostel. I didn’t know what to do so I went out bought tea bags and chocolate biscuits. I returned to my hostel made my tea and got into my bunk bed with the tea, biscuits and my book. I automatically felt better. I was comforting myself and already beginning to learn how to make myself feel at home in any situation. I feel as though these days I am a bit more of a nomad and my actual concept of home is a bit skewed. Still there are a few things I learnt that really helped me when I made my first big overseas move.
+ Keep busy
When you first move to a new country or place you often don’t know many people so you have a lot of free time and when you have this free time the homesickness can set in hard. Try to fill your life with social activities. When I first moved to Australia, I went to trapeze class, started volunteering, tutored english, played netball, joined the gym. The list goes on and when I think of it all I feel dizzy but at the time I had to do that. It meant I didn’t have many moments to sit at home feeling sad and missing home. I was constantly putting myself in situations where I would be always meeting people.
+ Build a support network
As you start doing things and getting out there you will meet more people. I met a wonderful supportive group of friends in Melbourne, four of which I met through volunteering. They were not from Melbourne city, they were all from the country, different states or overseas. We were able to relate in the fact that we were all not in the place where we began and we were able to support each other.
+ Make yourself comfortable
We all have different home comforts, mine are books and hot drinks. It doesn’t matter where I am, if I have those two things I feel more settled, calmer and more at home. The key is to find what is it that makes you feel at home and then in moments where you feel a little homesick you can reach for those things.
+ Give it time
It takes at least 6 months to settle in to a new place. It may not happen over night so you to need to go easy and give yourself the space to settle into it. Give yourself trips home too, depending on where you move to it may not be feasible to do it often but try and get home for a little bit. Its much easier now with cheaper flights and all that.
I think living abroad is great. It makes you more flexible and adaptable and can really open your mind. Moving away from your home base however isn’t easy and if it has been a while and you are still not feeling happy, it is fine to go home. It is fine to say you tried and it wasn’t for you. In doing that you are not losing anything and most importantly you have not failed at anything. The most important thing is following what makes you feel like yourself and makes you feel happy.