There’s no place like home

How homesickness can affect your health


Photo by Margaret Debenport

Photo illustration. Junior and foreign exchange student Ruth Heinemann poses for a photo.

Story by Ruth Heinemann, staff writer

When someone says “I’m homesick,” most people don’t take the concern seriously. A reason for that might be that many people perceive this feeling as something only children struggle with. But homesickness can affect anyone, no matter how old the person is.

It can also occur in a lot of different cases: when you are going on a vacation, moving out or during a year abroad. And yet, the period of time or distance away from home is not necessarily the determining reason for the influence homesickness can have on someone. The cultural differences like language or eating habits are more decisive because they create a feeling of foreignness. Many people try to “fit in” and when they realize that this can be challenging, most of them want to go back to their previous situation.

There are a lot of different symptoms, mostly mentally, but sometimes even physically. Homesickness is often linked to a feeling of isolation or loneliness. In severe cases, it can even cause physical symptoms, such as headaches, vomiting or muscular cramps. 

“Maybe you had to leave in order to really miss a place, maybe you had to travel to figure out how beloved your starting point was,” author Jodi Picoult said in her novel “Handle with care”. This quote shows that you don’t even have to be homesick for a place, it can also mean to miss the people you love.

The materialistic aspects often have an inferior role when you are suffering from homesickness. For example, missing a familiar environment is often less painful than missing the people close to you. The reason for that is usually that most people are more emotionally attached to relationships than to objects.

However, this is not always the case, because people you are close to will most likely miss you, but they will also be the ones there to support you. Having someone to tell you that the situation will improve and you’ll eventually feel better can actually “cure” the homesickness. 

Nevertheless, doing something that reminds you of your home, like cooking your favorite meal, can help, especially if you are spending time in a country with a different culture than yours. Not only does it give you a sense of being home, it also reminds you of where you come from. One thing I have noticed is that being homesick makes you realize how much you have to be grateful for. 

People who have little to no problems adjusting to unfamiliar situations are unlikely to experience homesickness, either because they had to get used to a new lifestyle before or because they have a really positive mindset. Seeing the unknown as an adventure rather than a challenge can even prevent homesickness.

How to best deal with this feeling of loneliness is an individual decision. Some will find different ways like sports, reading or cooking to distract themselves. Others will call their family or friends to talk about their feelings. Even though, in some cases, this can be counterproductive because it might make you feel worse. In general, every distraction you could think of is a good one, because you might actually find a new hobby. 

No one should be ashamed of being homesick because it is something almost everyone has to go through at least once in their life. It can actually be a good thing because it makes you realize that you have something to be grateful for.