Homesickness – that uncomfortable, out-of-place, missing-your-old-life feeling that hits you while you're adjusting to a new place, is a normal feeling that can affect au pairs and others living in a new culture.
According to Dr. Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist and an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, "You're not literally just missing your house. You're missing what's normal, what is routine, the larger sense of social space, because those are the things that help us survive."
Here are a few tips recommended by experts such as Dr. Klapow to help you deal with the feelings that may be coming your way:
Remember that homesickness happens to everyone!
Everyone who leaves one home and moves to another experiences a bit of homesickness. Some people experience it more strongly than others, and some people may keep their feelings to themselves, but everyone goes through this to at least some degree. If you're feeling sad, or frustrated, or even just a bit "out of it," there is nothing wrong with you! Don't get angry with yourself or frustrated with your au pair experience. Having these thoughts and feelings are completely normal.
Work to make your surroundings "your own"
Since a lot of what you're missing is your routine and your comfort zone, work to establish a new routine and comfort zone! Find a great café or park in your area that you enjoy visiting. Start taking your courses, or sign up for workout classes at a gym. Hang some favorite posters in your room, or establish an after-work tea and reading time. Anything that you enjoy doing can become your new "routine."
Keep in touch with home – but don't overdo it!
Staying in touch with your friends and family from home is important. Tools like Facebook and Skype are great (and free) ways to keep up with what is going on at home. Consider that au pairs 20 years ago certainly did not have these luxuries!
But, don't forget why you came to the States in the first place. Your goals may have been exploring, traveling, making new friends, practicing your English, and learning as much as you can from your time in the U.S.
If you find yourself declining invitations from friends here in order to talk to someone back home, or if you find yourself getting on Skype and being sad or crying along with a loved one, it might be a good idea to limit your communication back home. Be present where you are – you worked so hard to make it here, so make the most of it!
Talk to friends who share your experience
Your cluster is filled with au pairs who can relate to you about this experience – reach out to them. Sometimes you just need to talk with others who can understand where you're coming from. It can be therapeutic to "vent," or to express your feelings in a safe place. Don't forget to have fun, too. It's good to discuss your feelings and get them out, but not to dwell on them too much!
Remember that these feelings are temporary
Once you leave your home, a part of you might always miss it. But, eventually the disorienting, uncomfortable feelings that you experience when you're new to a place will give way to a sense of calm. Without even realizing it, you'll ease into your new home, and find yourself comfortably moving around your city and understanding the locals.
The more time you spend immersed in your new community, the faster you'll acclimate and the sooner you'll feel at home. We encourage you to make an effort to participate as fully as possible in your host community – this will enrich your experience tremendously!