Homesickness is challenging, but there are ways to conquer it.
It was not until this summer that I finally had a taste of dealing with homesickness. During my first year in Shanghai, I always found myself avoiding this issue, either by feeding myself with tons of work or intentionally missing out on all the phone calls I should have had with my family, which was not helpful at all. I thought the best way to confront it was to not confront it, but apparently, I was wrong.
I was attending summer sessions at the New York campus. My first time staying in a foreign country alone was definitely not easy for me,let alone in a big city like New York. I remember how excited I was every time I saw the replica of Suzhou gardens in the MET (The Metropolitan Museum of Art); I was doing video calls with my family almost three times a week, sharing with them all the new Chinese restaurants I found and the new recipes I “developed”; I also claimed my own little corner in my favorite bookstore--McNally Jackson, where I could spend my entire day looking over every book written by Asian American authors.
Looking back, I realized that all these seemingly ‘crazy’ behaviors were actually great examples of how to deal with homesickness, and applicable to living in any big city, whether in New York or in Shanghai:
Bringing food from home to Shanghai or finding them in Shanghai is definitely the first step.
Shanghai offers a variety of food choices, most of which can be found in popular crowd-sourced review sites. Always, it helps to find some friends to go have food together over weekends. Through sharing your food stories, you get to present your own culture and learn more about other cultures.
Bring a photo of your home city with you.
It can be the wallpaper on your phone, or a Polaroid photo, or even a postcard. I have Polaroid photos from home hanging in front of my desk in the dorm. Some of them are with my friends, while others are great landscapes. Every time I feel a struggle, I will always be quickly healed or at least comforted just by looking at them for a few moments.
It also helps a lot to talk to your family or friends at home through calls.
Usually, homesickness is accompanied or even caused by stress, loneliness, and anxiety over academics or adjusting to another culture. Talk to them about your concerns, even if it’s just really small things in your daily life, it’s always great to speak and lift them from your mind. You will also get to hear about their situations or concerns and learn that you are not alone in this.
Last but not least, always keep in mind that our school has excellent resources to turn to.
The New Student Program, Student Government, and Residential Life hold events on a regular basis, either about exploring Shanghai or bringing in your hometown specialities to campus festivals. Or, you can simply talk to your peers about your struggles over lunch or on shuttle bus rides, which helps a lot too.
The adjustment does take a while, as you are brought into a completely different environment. But the good thing is that after opening up to this new environment, you will find yourself calling it home, or at least your second home. You will learn to embrace your adjustment—I am still on the journey of embracing it, too!
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Susan Zou is a sophomore majoring in social science (with a political science concentration) at NYU Shanghai. An aspiring journalist, she hails from Suzhou, China and is also in charge of the branch of a student-run Wechat publication- Flame(Weilu), which publishes interviews with college students, faculty, and staff. Feel free to contact her at email@example.com, or follow her Instagram for more stories: @susan_zou_.