Crystal in blue hoodie knocking a large wooden door in Edinburgh

How to Deal with Loneliness and Homesickness While Living Abroad

Being homesick is awful. It strikes when you propel yourself into the unknown and everything can feel so overwhelming. I endured homesickness plenty of times while living abroad. There were many ups and downs. Some days were filled with tears and frustration, thinking “What am I doing here?” and there were other days when I was filled with the happiness of making my dream of living abroad a reality. Moving abroad, even as a temporary worker, is full of challenges and difficulties you may have never had even thought about.

Homesickness first struck me when I landed in London after my long-haul flight. I was coming out of the terminal into the area filled with families and friends welcoming others. Giving them warm hugs and surrounding them with familiarity. During my first few visits to England, I remember coming through those doors and seeing my boyfriend waiting for me. This time I had no one. I was really sad looking at all those smiling faces and knowing I was alone. None of those people were there for me. Loneliness was waiting for me instead.

Crystal in blue hoodie knocking a large wooden door in Edinburgh
Hello? Is anyone home? Does anyone want to come hang out with me?

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Sticking it out

I stuck it out for a few difficult days in London. Staying in a hostel for the first time in my life didn’t help to cope with homesickness. I was jet-lagged, in a place, I didn’t know and I still hadn’t reached my final destination. I had to stay in London for a few days to arrange stuff like banking, a mobile SIM card, finding a job and looking for a place to live.

Once I finally arrived in Scotland, I felt a little more at ease, as I had a place to call home. I lived with three people who helped me during my first few days in Scotland. My new roommates took me to the grocery store and making me feel welcome. It helped a lot but they were quite busy with their own lives and we didn’t become close friends.

The first month of my stay in Edinburgh was filled with so much homesickness and loneliness. I was in a new place all on my own. I didn’t know a single person and I didn’t want to spend too much money because I wasn’t sure how long it would take to find a job.

I also had to battle culture shock. This, in turn, shocked me because I didn’t think Scotland was that different from Canada. Moving abroad turned out to be quite a bit different than just visiting a new country!

Although times were tough and I struggled with my decision to keep living in Scotland, I knew I’d made the right choice and had to find ways to help me find happiness. I found a few things that really helped me cope and I hope they’ll help you, too.

How to deal with loneliness and homesickness

Crystal holding onto a cannon at Edinburgh Castle
I took myself to Edinburgh Castle for my birthday two weeks after arriving in Edinburgh

Bring something from home

If you bring something that reminds you of home (not just clothes and essentials) it will bring you a familiar sense of comfort. I brought a pillow (complete with SpongeBob pillowcase!) and a blanket that my mom gave to me. Returning to your new home and seeing familiar homely things really help when it comes to coping with homesickness.

Get out the house

This is a big one when learning how to deal with loneliness. It doesn’t have to be any huge expedition, just take a walk around the local area or head to the shops. I found that if I didn’t leave the house every day, depression would set in and I’d feel awful.

Make some friends

Sometimes this is easier said than done. At first, I didn’t really know how to make friends as an adult in a new country. But I soon learned along the way. If you end up living with other people, your flatmates can quickly become your first friends and introduce you to other people.

Find a job

Finding a job combines both getting out of the house and making friends. I made 95% of my friends from my job. I got a job at Edinburgh Zoo and met so many amazing people from work! A lot of my co-workers were interested in chatting about how I’m from Canada and in turn, I got to make friends with people who were born in Scotland and have lived there all their lives. Getting a job opened up new doors to truly connecting with Scotland.

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Skype, WhatsApp, Email…

Some people advise against contacting home when you’re coping with homesickness, but it made me feel a lot better. Being able to connect with my loved ones made me feel happier overall. The internet can really help connect you with the family and friends back home you miss and using it is one of the best ways to deal with loneliness. It reassured me that everyone was safe and happy back home and I was doing the right thing by moving abroad.

Forth Bridge in the Firth of Forth in Scotland. I would go down here when I was lonely and homesick.
Forth Bridge – I would walk down to South Queensferry often and visit the Forth Bridge.

Watch familiar movies and TV shows

Instead of watching local television, I’d often revert back to watching my favourite TV shows (such as The Simpsons & Seinfeld) and  Corner Gas – (which is a terrible Canadian show that I love) from back home. It would act as a comfort and create a bit of happy nostalgia. These TV shows made me feel more at home, being surrounded by what I was familiar with.

Create a routine

If you create new routines or integrate similar routines from back home into your new lifestyle. You’ll settle into your new home, new country and new life a lot more seamlessly. Once you get into a normal routine, you’ll feel a lot more secure in your new surroundings.

Embrace your new country

Take your time and slowly learn about the place you’re living in by trying the local food, discovering a place you love, and exploring all sorts of cafes, shops, and attractions until you feel like a local. Since you’re not a tourist, you can spend much more time exploring than you would if you were just on a two-week holiday. Take your time and take in as much as you like.

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Find others living abroad

Connecting with people from your home country and others living abroad gives you the chance to talk to someone who knows the ins and outs of what you’re going through. Because they’re also going through it, you don’t have to feel like you’re alone. If you’re from the same place, you can reminisce about your time back in your home country together. Everyone loves a bit of nostalgia. Plus, sometimes your sense of humor is really only understood by people from your home country!

Helping me get over homesickness and loneliness - Art Gallery in Edinburgh saying Everything is going to be Alright
I stumbled across this Art Gallery on a lonely walk. The message on the building is “EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT” – perfect timing, thanks building!

Remember why you moved abroad

It can be tough getting over the challenges you’re experiencing, especially when you’re lonely and all you want to do is be at home with your friends and family. You will overcome the homesickness and loneliness you’re feeling and you’ll be so thankful you stuck through the hard times when you start really enjoying your time abroad. Stick it out — you did the right thing!

How to deal with homesickness and loneliness while living abroad
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