In my last blog, I talked about some of the downsides to living abroad. Today, I want to give you some ways to help counteract the hardships that you may face.
Homesickness can be very overwhelming for some while living abroad. You’re missing out on what’s going on back home, people are getting married, having babies, advancing in careers, and sadly sometimes people pass away. Since you won’t be able to be there for all of it, one obvious way to combat this, is to keep in touch. Whether you use Zoom or Skype, just being able to see and hear those you love and care about, can make a difference.
While it’s important to keep in touch with those back home, you don’t want to become so consumed that you miss out on what’s right in front of you! Making local friends is imperative! They really become like family, and can be the support you need when you’re having a difficult time. Early on during my time in Korea, I attended language exchanges often. I made Korean friends, as well as other foreigner friends. This is a great way to learn the language from native speakers, and many of these friends were kind enough to help me with other things, and answer questions I had. Language exchanges were also a wonderful way for me to meet other foreigners who spoke English, (you definitely want friends who speak your language while abroad.)
Taking free Korean classes at the city hall in Busan was another way that I met more friends. There were also other foreigners from all around the world! Now, while I am far from being fluent in Korean, taking these classes gave me a great grammatical foundation, which helped me to connect more with the language and culture.
I’m a Christian, so it was important for me to find a church to attend. This helped me to battle homesickness/culture stress/general hardships as a foreigner living in Korea. There were a few English speaking churches in the city I lived in, so I was able to attend regularly. It was here that I met those who shared the same faith as me, which was really vital for me. I am still close friends with some who I met there, though we live in various places. Whatever your religion may be, (if you have one), try to see if there are any places of worship near where you will be living.
I enjoy working out, and never thought that joining a local gym in my neighborhood would land me a friend, (I was the only English speaking foreigner in my entire neighborhood) but it did! I met another English speaking foreigner there about 6 months before I moved back to the States. Despite her now living in Australia, she and I keep in touch regularly. It is possible to also make friends at the gym. Some of the trainers would speak to me in English, in order to practice their speaking ability, which was fine with me.
What I hope I’m communicating clearly, is that you need to have a hobby, where you can meet others who are interested in what you are. Whatever it is you do while living abroad, it’s important to find something that you ENJOY doing! You can find many groups/clubs on social media, you’d be surprised at what you can find if you look. Life can get lonely if you just go to work, and return to your housing, so I advise making an effort to meet and connect with people. This won’t make everything automatically better, but just like at home, having friends and people you care about by your side can help you to weather the storm.