A picture of the Oregon Coast
Homesickness is likely to creep up on you at some point during your study. It may not be immediate. Exploring a new place is exciting and can keep you distracted for an extensive period of time. For me, the pangs of homesickness began about six months into my study. By this time, the distractions of living in a new place had begun to dissipate and I’d developed more of a routine.
When you move as far as I did, family, friends, favourite hangouts, and inexpensive Mexican food 🙁 are on a completely different hemisphere! It becomes especially obvious during winter when everyone back home on the northern side of the world is playing in the sunshine and you’re stuck inside writing on a rainy day. Having a solid support network is essential to get through the tough times.
Know your Fellow Postgrads
This group is a very special form of support. These are the people who can relate to your daily struggles, academic feats (big or small!) and the quirks that come along with doing a PhD at Massey. Friday night drinks is a great way to let off some steam from the week and get to know the people you see every day outside of the academic sphere. Who knows, maybe this is where you discover that the postgrad sitting in the corner of the room loves the same things you do!
I’ve spent a lot of quality time with the post-grad group not limited to running on lunch breaks and weekends away tasting wine. Sometimes mid-week drinks (coffee or beer) are in order too whether they’re for the particularly tough weeks or maybe you just can’t wait ‘til Friday :). Either way, getting to know the people you work with can be a great form of support.
Build a Life at Home
While the postgraduate crew is full of wonderful people, I also recommend creating a friend group outside of Massey life. Pursuing a PhD keeps your brain running 24/7 and sometimes all you need is a few hours of escape. Escape can be hard to come by if the people you’re surrounded by are hardwired the same way. Talking with others outside of Massey can help you keep that balance between work and personal life.
My flatmates would definitely be the group that keeps me grounded. We operate like a little family; cooking flat dinners during the week and exploring the city on the weekend.
Apart from flatmates, it can be easy to meet people around town. Wellington in particular, is a great place to meet new people. New faces are constantly streaming through the city since Wellington serves as a popular destination for travelers as well as a black hole for ex-pats.
Despite the abundance of people, you might start to recognize faces around town due to the city’s compact size. It might be your local bartender, the barista who serves you coffee on the weekend, or someone who shares your daily commute. Whoever it is, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation!
New Zealand is known for its abundance of friendly people. You might even meet someone from your hometown. I got to chatting one evening with one of the bartenders and it turns out he was from Portland! Sharing the love of where you’re from can be a good cure for homesickness. Once you make a new friend, networking through them is a great way to meet more people too.
Stay in Touch with Loved Ones
No matter how friendly the people are around you, sometimes you just need someone who understands where you come from. Keeping regular Facetime/Skype sessions with my family and close friends back home has been the best way to stay in touch with what is happening at home. I’ve found even the talking about small things like the daily weather reports and latest family gossip keeps me involved in the daily happenings which makes me feel closer to home.
I manage weekly skype sessions with my parents the best I can and regularly contact my close friends through Facebook and Whatsapp. It’s amazing how close someone can feel that is on the other side of the world. Who knows, maybe all of your adventure stories might lure your someone out to visit you 🙂
The Cure for Homesickness
Regardless of which strategy you use to build a support network, sharing a quality connection helps to keep a sense of familiarity. Reaching out to friends can keep you from getting too deep in your head, particularly when the pangs of homesickness come to visit.
Embarking on an overseas adventure promises endless potential for growth as an academic and as an individual. Making friends with people from different walks of life can make the large unknown world a little bit more familiar. Just don’t forget to stay in touch with the amazing ones you already know back home!