Moving to Sweden was an exciting yet a scary experience for me. Formerly I had never set foot in Europe, never felt the cold and dark winter, and never imagined how individualistic the Swedish culture was. The big difference between the culture in my home country and in Sweden made homesickness unavoidable in the beginning.
Have been living in Sweden for 18 months now, I have learned a lot how to enjoy my new home here in Stockholm. Here I want to share you my experience on how to beat homesickness when studying abroad, particularly in Sweden.
1. Homesick is not a negative feeling
The first time I realized that I felt sad and longed for my home and family in Indonesia, I believed that I was so weak. I felt uncomfortable, and for no particular reason I felt guilty for leaving my parents. But after pondering it over, I got a new insight. Homesickness was not my weakness. I would prefer to see homesickness as a natural process when I moved from a place where I’ve got so much love to another place that I had to discover. So instead of staying miserable, I challenged myself to find the beauty of life in Sweden.
2. Explore your new home
You may want to start explore your new home by doing what the tourists do. I remembered that in the beginning of my academic year, an organisation sponsored by KI offered the new students a tour around Stockholm. They showed the new students the different food-stores, the train system, the Karolinska Hospital and some tourist sites. I think, such tour can be a good start to explore the new home.
3. Bring something from the “old” home to the new one
In Indonesia, I was used to have bright white bulbs at home. The light was white and very bright. Here in Sweden, they used bulbs with yellowish color and warm light. I know it is just a lamp! It wouldn’t become a problem for most people. But for me, the yellowish and warm light made me feel blue. I bet you can guess what I did next. Yes, I went to IKEA, tried to find similar bulbs like what I had in my home country :p Apparently it was not easy to find the similar one. But don’t worry though, now I can live happily with the yellowish one 😀
4. Take opportunities to make new friends
Getting new (close) friends in Sweden was not as easy as I thought. In my opinion, European people tend to be more individualistic than people in my culture. People here could have chit-chat in the class, but then they could become stranger when they were outside the class. Some ways to get new friends are by joining the student union’s committees, participating in the student union’s event, taking a Swedish course, or joining particular group having the similar interest.
Making new friends here was quite tough for someone introvert like me. But I pushed myself to do some efforts in getting new friends because I believed that it was one of the basic human needs. I eventually found these nice human beings in my the Swedish course class. All of us were medical doctors, we came from outside Sweden, we were in the similar age, and we were struggling to build a new life in Stockholm. Those similarities made us connected and we shared a lot of stories each other.
5. Find some students coming from the same country
Meeting some people from the same home country, talking to them using our own native language, and cooking our traditional foods can be one of the homesickness ‘medicines’. This year there were few KI students from Indonesia. Because we were only few people, we knew each other well. We usually have potluck dinner every one or two months. I feel home when I am with them 🙂
6. Limit your time on social media
I found that social media triggered the feeling of homesick. For me, seeing how people live, what they eat, how they gather with their family intensely through facebook or Instagram could induce the fear of missing out (FOMO) that lead to stress or depressive mood. So then I tried to be wiser in using social media.
7. Know when you need help
In some cases, some people need extra help to beat homesickness. At KI, one can ask for help from the Student Health Center, or comfortably discuss it with the study programme counselor. I did not have any experience on this, but two friends of mine had ever shared me their experience. They felt depressed and the depression affected their study performance. They discussed the problem with the study programme counselor and they said that it helped them a lot. You may also want to know about all individual services at KI for the students.
Have you ever felt homesickness? You can share your experience in dealing with homesickness on the comment below! You can also read an inspiring story on how DA @aleksandrapublichealth fought the migrant depression when she was studying at KI.