Besides language difficulties, homesickness is will be one of the few things, you´re almost guaranteed to experience. It is a very natural thing, that you´ll eventually overcome. Of course this kind of feeling is encountered differently by everyone and there might even be people, that feel it with such a low intensity, that they´ll never feel like returning.
Unfortunately, I wasn´t one of those lucky people.
But before I start going into any details, I want to get some things out there:
What I am about to discribe, has been my past experiences with this issue. Thus these insights are taken from my personal life only, unless stated otherwise, it is nowhere said to be something everyone has experienced/will be experiencing the same way..
The most common time to get homesick is somewhere in the middle of your exchange year. If you already went through the application process (and read all the paper work), you may have seen this kind of graph, designed by Ayusa, which outlines estimated highs and lows of your stay. If you dont know, what I´m talking about, don´t worry. They show this chart to you at least three times, so you´ll eventually catch a glimpse of it at some point or another.
Anyway. Due to my lack of research, this was almost all information I had besides:
"Oh yes, of course, everyone gets homesick, once they´ve completely setlled!"
"If you dont let yourself down and don´t spend much time alone, you´ll get trough it in a minute.". Which left me both very optimisic, but also a little bit unprepared for what was going to happen next.
As everyone else, I was very excited to finally go to Japan and the last few weeks before the flight were pure hell, since my friend had classes again, that I didn´t had to attend and waiting for something to happen has never been my strength.
As I was supposed to, I´ve been very excited about my arrival in Japan at first. But it didn't even took a day for me, to completely turn my mood around.
After the three orientation days in Tokyo, I was ready to go back home. As a result of the jetlag I was experiencing and the immediate confrontation with a language, I wasn´t quite able to speak yet, I found myself forced to be okay in a period of time, that was supposed to be the most exciting.
And this is one of the reasons, why I decided to share these past emotions, now that I've worked them out. During that time, I felt like there was something wrong with me, that I wouldn't be able to stay for ten months. Because, even though the organization really tries their best to inform everyone that those feelings might occur, it is not a thing, that can be generalized by a graph. At least I think that. As for me, I experienced the culture shock immediately after my arrival and throughout the first month I really struggled with the thought of going home earlier as originally planned.
To complement the previous with something a little less one sided, I got in touch with some of the other exchange students, that came here with me and heard similar things from them.
A girl, that was looking forward to this exchange at least as much as I did and that I texted often before we went to Japan, started to doubt her choice of even going days before the flight.
And like me, she would still feel the same struggles from time to time, even now, 2 months into the programm.
But, and now we'll continue with the the part, that is the most important, Every single one of us has to face this. And my intentions aren´t to make you scared or to make you rethink your choice to do an exchange year. This entry (and everything else on this blog) is supoosed to be educational only.
It takes some time to accept the distance between yourself and everything you know but sooner or later you will feel comfortable in your new home. and will you will be able to appreciate the advantages of going to another county. It is such a special gift to be able to travel the world at such a young age and it is no naturelness to have this opportunity.
Let´s be real here: an exchange year is an unbelievably huge adventure.
And sooner or later you´ll find yourself overwhelmed by how big of a deal your life just became, which I don´t mean in a bad way.
It is exciting to imagine all the things you´ll do and see and by the time it finally happens you won´t know, what to do with all this amazement.
But as always we have to keep in mind, that not every day can be a pinata of funfilled activities.
I had a hard time adapting this too, since I was very focused on achieving my larger goals when I arrived here. I got frustrated, that school days were just school days and the weekends just weekends. I felt like I wasn´t making the best out of my time here, that for sure is very limited. But as multiple times before, I took my time and I eventually realized, that even "just school days" can be their own little adventure. And since then, I´ve been not only more greatful but also more satisfied with my self and my enviroment.
What I am about to suggest now, isn´t necessarely connected solely to bad times. It is rather something that really helped me, since I actively try to experience every single day keeping this in my mind and I recommend to everyone to stop for just a minute and at least consider it.
Appreciate the little things. You´ve been given the gift of thousands and thousands first times. If you want to go a bit more illustrative, you could almost say, you´ve been reborn in a diffrent place. Some of the things you´ll do for the first time are going to create impressive memories, that you´ll never forget in your entire life. But that makes it even easier, to look past the smaller moments. And with the absence of those huge moments one might feel some kind of emptyness or restlessness.
Of course, I don´t want you to get too excited for each and every little thing. But I do think, that it can have a remarkable impact on the mood and maybe even how we see the world, if we take our time, noticing and value the things, that we´ve summed up with the words "daily-life".
I have a problem. And that problem is my boyfriend. Well, to specify: the distance between us is the issue, not him personally. Having a long distance relationship is nobodies dream and even though movies and books do a pretty decent job at portraing the romantic aspects of the whole situation, like late night calls, letters and cute messages; that´s by far not all there is to it. It requires enormes amounts of trust, patience and endurance from both sides.
Usually the person leaving is the lucky one. I´ve been told this by countless people and when you think about it, it does make sense. It´s quite obvios, that it is way harder, to ignore the absence of a person, while living the same every-day life as you did together before. You´ll eventually have to notice the little things you shared, there is no way around it.
Apperantly, keeping up a romantic relationship as an exchange student is something a little unusual. A lot of couples decide to break up before the start of the programm or they try to make it work, but fail after some time.
As for me, I assume, that the abiltiy to have a relationship, despite living on different continents, goes back to the personal traits of each individual. And it is everyones duty to decide on their own, if they think they hold this ability.
Bringing physical diffrence between the two parties of a realtionship might solve problems, but it could as well create some.
Since this is such a personal topic, it is very hard to give advice on, Therfore, as always, I can´t guarantee for the following to make a diffrence or save anyones relationship. But I did think that some of these things, I came up with, can be adapted in any situation and as for myself, some of those points have helped me a lot.