One of the challenges associated with traveling is learning how to cope with loneliness abroad. Though eye-opening and exciting, living abroad can also be difficult and isolating. Having a circle of friends, or even just one close friend, can really make a difference in how you’re able to live the experience and overcome obstacles.
There are a few different elements to feeling lonely or isolated abroad. Many people have a hard time living without their loved ones back home. Missing parents, best friends or a significant other is common. A lot of people also suffer from a sense of isolation from their home culture. They find it difficult to adapt to the new culture and aren’t quite able to connect to it, or find comfort in it. Loneliness also comes from simply not having any new friends there for you emotionally. It’s important to really try to make friends abroad and have an open mind. You never know who could end up being your support system and best international travel buddy.
9 top tips on how to cope with loneliness abroad:
1. Don’t focus too much on what you’re missing back home
Contrary to what you may think, spending too much time on Skype or social media talking to friends back home will actually make you miss home more. Though it’s important to stay in touch, being too focused on what’s going on back home will cause you to miss out on the amazing opportunity that you have.
2. Talk about how you feel
It can be therapeutic to share with others when you feel lonely or miss home as long as you aren’t having a pity party or victimizing yourself. There are tons of amazing adventures at your feet when you’re abroad. However, it’s natural to feel alone and miss home, and it’s good to talk about those feelings in order to move forward.
3. Join a group, club, team or create one yourself
Let your interests lead you to making new friends abroad, whether they be other expats or locals. Whether it be joining a soccer team or starting a book club, these regular social activities that involve your interests are great for meeting people and enjoying yourself.
4. Connect with other expats
One of the benefits of going abroad through The Intern Group is that the program plans social events for you to meet other interns doing the program. Being part of a network of interns makes the whole experience of living abroad a lot more social and less lonely. At your internship abroad you’ll also develop relationships with your coworkers.
5. Establish a routine
Pick a few places around your housing to become more familiar with. Become a regular at a local coffee shop, restaurant or fruit stand. Seeing the same people every day at these local places will make you feel more at home, more comfortable and, as you develop a bit of a rapport with the people working, you’ll definitely feel less alone.
6. Distract yourself
Instead of worrying about how alone you are, focus your energy instead on your adventures in this new, exciting country. Even if you’re completely alone, make a bucket list and commit yourself to exploring and learning.
7. Take a class
Taking classes is an excellent way to meet other people with similar interests and goals. Many of The Intern Group‘s programs include foreign language classes for interns, which help with language learning and can also be useful for social endeavors.
8. Make your accommodation more homey
Print off some pictures to hang up on your wall and get creative in order to make your accommodation feel a little more like home. Obviously, it will never feel like you’re actually back in your home country, but with a few familiar items you can make the place yours.
9. Don’t spend too much time at home alone
Living abroad really pushes you outside your comfort zone. Just walking down the street or buying groceries can be a challenge, especially if there’s a language barrier. It’s important to really resist the urge to stay home in your room and instead say “yes” to as many outings and activities as possible. If not, you’ll just feel more and more isolated and really waste the opportunity that you have living abroad. You’ll be back home sooner than you think.
Sources: http://monkeysandmountains.com/loneliness-when-living-abroad, www.expatarrivals.com/article/beating-loneliness-as-an-expat-living-abroad-or-working-overseas, http://www.gooverseas.com/blog/ways-reduce-homesickness-abroad, http://www.vagabondish.com/beat-loneliness-solo-travel/
Photo 3. by The Intern Group