It happens to everyone. Anyone who has moved to another city, country or continent has experienced it. Whether it’s for work, school or some other reason, homesickness is real and something that affects a lot of people. That feeling of yearning to be back home, to eat home-cooked meals and hang out with lifelong friends is homesickness. 

It’s not uncommon for first-year students in particular to experience this as soon as the rush of the first few weeks wears off. Coming from Bali, Indonesia, Luna Suwito recently joined us as a guest on the popular #GoingtoIEU podcast to talk about her own experience with homesickness and how she dealt with it. She offered some helpful insight on how she overcame those dreaded feelings, making her first year of university a great success.

From Bali to Madrid: Luna’s Story

Luna is a fourth-year Bachelor in Communication and Digital Media student from Bali, Indonesia. Attending IE University meant leaving her home for the first time. Even though she is half-Spanish, she still had a hard time adjusting to a new place. She remembers that, “It got to a point where I wanted to drop out because I couldn’t handle it. When I came, it was like a completely different world. I was starting a new chapter, but it was very intimidating.” It was lucky that she attended a pre-university event and made friends prior to the beginning of the fall term. Those classmates would be present throughout her four years at university.

The Mentorship Society helped Luna come out of her shell and adjust with not only her academic obligations, but her personal life. She also believes that living in one of the residencies in Segovia helped. “I think living in a residence in the first year is important, because that’s where you meet people from everywhere,” she advised. She attended many events that made her busy and kept her mind off negative thoughts, but the main thing that calmed her was the realization that everyone around her was going through the same thing. She recalled, “Everyone’s kind of on the same page. We’re all first years, and we’re all just entering this random, completely new chapter in our life that is so exciting but also nerve-wracking.”

Luna was homesick for the entire first semester. The time zone difference made it even more difficult. Luna felt very alone, but her friends helped her. She said they pushed her to do things like going to the mountains or watching the sunset or even taking random pictures. “Getting out of that mindset and asking your friends to help you is important, because if you do it alone, it’s impossible,” she told us.

Advice on overcoming homesickness

Not dwelling on what are natural feelings is important, Luna advised: “The more you think about it, you go into this continuous spiral. It’s a hard situation to get out of sometimes. I know a lot of people in first year who actually dropped out because they were so homesick. But that’s kind of like giving up. And I feel like you can get out of that mindset and that spiral.”

Luna shared her experience with homesickness very honestly, and had some tips and advice for first-year students going through the same thing. She recommended meeting people and making friends during freshers’ week, which is filled with fun events and opportunities for new students to meet each other, and get acclimated to university and the student experience. She also recommended reaching out to others to try to get your mind off those thoughts. “Everyone gets homesick,” she pointed out. “It’s completely normal, so reaching out to classmates, friends, anyone, is super-helpful in making the most of what you have here. Because, once you leave here, you’ll miss it!”

Another element of homesickness is culture shock. Every country does things differently, which can make it difficult to get accustomed to your new life. Luna recalled that “a lot of my non-Spanish friends struggled a lot with the fact that the majority of people don’t speak English in Spain.” The paperwork and routine things that students must do at the beginning of the semester can also be overwhelming, which also impacts on their feelings of homesickness. Luna’s advice was to take things calmly and rely on friends who spoke Spanish for help.

Whether it’s Segovia or Madrid, Luna’s top tip was to “focus on yourself for a little bit. Just taking time for yourself helps.” Homesickness isn’t fun, but it happens to everyone. The best thing to do is to seek out friends, stay positive, focus on yourself and let it pass. That will make the first year of university more fun and successful.

You can hear Luna’s full interview on #GoingtoIEU here.