Updated: Mar 27
By Rogie Delos Santos
Change plays a massive role in every person's success story. Embracing change opens an opportunity to improve one's life and career. As an OFW, moving abroad to work is probably the most difficult but at the same time most fulfilling change you have made. Leaving your family behind, getting out of your comfort zone, adapting to a different place and culture.. working abroad is never easy! While this may sound rewarding, homesickness is a real hurdle to most OFWs. Dealing with homesickness can make or break your success as you pivot to a new path on the other side of the world.
If you find yourself always crying after every video call session or having sleepless nights every time you see a Facebook post of a friend or a relative, it is possibly the awful feeling of homesickness. Van Tilburg et.al. defined homesickness as a state of distress commonly experienced by people who have left their home to be in a new unfamiliar environment. The signs of distress may vary so much from having just poor appetite to being unmotivated the whole day. Some even reported of experiencing physical manifestation such as fever or body aches without underlying reason. As homesickness share the same tendencies of a depressed person, some may even have suicidal ideation. It is an anxiety issue that may result in extreme consequences if not recognised and dealt with.
Take note of the phrase commonly experienced in its definition because it means it's temporary and getting over it is NOT IMPOSSIBLE. Like any health conditions, homesickness can be managed in so many ways. Here are some tips on how you can manage homesickness as you settle in your new home.
1. Assess your feelings and identify the triggers of being homesick
It is quite tricky but homesickness does not necessarily mean missing your home. Anyone may feel some trembling when they are out of their comfort zone and knowing what triggers your homesickness may help you to deal with it.
To create a better picture, we may compare homesickness to phantom pain. Phantom pain is a pain that feels like it is coming from an amputated body part. In order to manage this, you need to accept that the pain is real. By regularly touching the stump of the amputated part reminds the person that the remainder of that limb is no longer there.
Similarly, identifying what triggers your homesickness and what kind of reaction you have every time may help you accept the situation. Make a list of these thoughts and feelings and highlight the things that might hinder your daily activities. Accepting that you are vulnerable to homesickness and you are currently experiencing it helps you to look forward and make small changes everyday.
2. Plan your life in your new home
Always remember the top reason why you left your home to work abroad. Whether it's to gain better career opportunity, improve the quality of your life or provide a brighter future to your family, keeping focused on your goals can distract you from feeling homesick.
Set measurable goals to keep you pumped up with purpose and practice gratitude activities to enlighten your spirit. Create a plan that will make your life more meaningful and enjoyable even if you're away from home.
You can set financial goals so you can move to your own new house instead of house sharing, go on a holiday or buy a car. You can also make a strategic plan on how you can bring your family over with minimal stress as much as possible. By making plans, you channel your effort and attention to a certain point. You also create a sense of moving forward which makes you comfortable in your new environment since you executed it in your new setting.
3. Look for activities that will distract you from missing home
I've asked three OFWs on how they coped with homesickness and everybody responded that they deal with this by ploughing through it with activities. Tristan, a Filipino from Cornwall, says that every time he feels sad, he goes to town centre and immerse himself as immersion to your new environment is the best way to make yourself feel at home. Ruzzlyn, a gastro nurse, stated that she watched a lot of movies on off duty days to get her mind off home while Ariane, who works as a dialysis nurse, bought a lot of accessories for her bed to make it more personal and can make her feel at home.
Enjoying what your new environment has to offer is the best way to fit in any neighbourhood. Go to church and meet people. Celebrate your new home or a new hobby that excites you. Enjoy every unique aspect of your home and decorate it until you can call it your own (with your landlord's permission if you're renting *wink*)
4. Review your coping strategies and evaluate your progress
Remember the list you created? Reflect on what actions that made a difference to mend the distress of being away from home. Homesickness is something that everyone experiences and normally does not go away overnight. Don’t give up easily and always keep a positive mindset that you'll get through it.
If you have done everything with your might to fight the feelings of loneliness and isolation and you're still struggling, don't hesitate to seek help from friends or even professionals.
I know it's easier said than done but remember that you can deal with it at your own pace. It's completely normal to feel that way and it's okay to miss home. You are not alone and I bet almost everyone who have moved abroad have struggled with homesickness at some point. Don't deny your feelings but don't let it eat you up. Focus on your strengths, your goals and your reason for this big change, to achieve the SUCCESS you have always dreamed of.
About the author:
Rogie is currently working as a Trauma Nurse in Cornwall. He is also a trained dialysis nurse and engaged in digital production and teachings on the side.