Summertime sadness: missing home

As the summer begins and the stress of exams begin to fade from our minds, something else may take its place for international students: homesickness. A lot of students will visit their home countries over the summer, but many of us will stay in the Netherlands. Without the busy hours of studying and attending student events, the summer in a new and foreign country can feel very isolating.

Image: Ton Toemen

I love the Netherlands and Tilburg specifically, but it is still a new place with many cultural differences. Without the support of family and friends, navigating such differences can be a demanding task for some. We share this task with our fellow international students and share the experience throughout the academic year, supporting each other in direct and indirect ways.

But now that many students go home for the summer, those of us staying in Tilburg could find our navigation falling a little off center. Suddenly our new support structures may be far away, while we are still adapting to being away from home and family. This can make the next few weeks challenging and heighten the existing feelings of missing home and feeling alone.

I can’t give advice or imbue any purpose to these feelings. But I can say that no one is alone in feeling this and many international students far from home and family are facing the same feelings of homesickness, loneliness and isolation. I miss my extended family and my friends in my home country, and I don’t have the solution to facing these feelings.

I am reminding myself though, of the ways we managed through the lockdowns of the pandemic. Maybe the coping mechanisms we adopted during lockdowns can help ease the feelings of homesickness during the summer? Things like reaching out to family and friends virtually, seeking out nature, trying new hobbies, etc. It might not cure homesickness, but it could ease some feelings of isolation.

For many students this may not be a problem at all. But to some, it might feel like homesickness dominates the summer. Reach out for help if it becomes overwhelming. If you feel alone in these feelings, know that at least one person (me!) could relate. This is my final column for the year, but reach out to @universonline to share your experiences as internationals in Tilburg this summer!

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