By this point, you’re probably halfway through your studies. It doesn’t matter much. Some of us feel homesick the day we get to Groningen, while it hits others one week, two months, or even a year into their studies. Homesickness is a universal experience for most students studying abroad. After all, there is no place like home. I have some thoughts and advice on how to deal with homesickness while studying in Groningen. Let’s get into it!
A big part of homesickness is feeling like you’re alone. Of course, the best way to stop feeling lonely is to stop being alone. Unfortunately, there’s no magical switch to make friends appear, but you’re in a student city in the Netherlands (and the best one for that matter). There are all kinds of people here just waiting to get to know you. Making a new friend is sometimes as simple as staying a moment after class and talking to a classmate. Other times, you have to join a student association and get to know some people there with similar interests. The bottom line is you should put yourself out there, accept invitations from people you want to hang out with, and invite others to spend time with you.
If you’re an international student who’s in a new country for the first time, you might find everything overwhelming. However, consider that most other internationals feel the same way. They are looking for new friends and connections just like you. Making international friends in a city like Groningen is super easy, especially if you can bond over your shared experience of being away from home for a prolonged period. It doesn’t matter if you’re here for three more months, a year, or a full-length program. The best part of having international friends is that you can explore the city together!
I’ve heard internationals describe Dutch students as “unfriendly” or “unapproachable.” In my experience, this cannot be further from the truth. Hot take: Dutch students are like everyone else. I know, shocker. You might feel this way if you’ve tried to enter a Dutch friend group. However, don’t let one or two bad experiences with Dutch students discourage you from trying to make Dutch friends while in the Netherlands. A lot of Dutchies are from outside Groningen, so you share the feeling of being in a new place with them too, even though it is not completely new for them. Having Dutch friends means you can annoy them with Dutch phrases if you’re learning their language. They can also help get you acquainted with the Netherlands. Plus, they are notorious for partying hard. See if you can keep up!
Enough of making new connections. Living away from home also involves maintaining old relationships. You’ve probably left a lot of your friends and family behind after coming to Groningen. Thankfully, today we can stay in touch using video calls and instant messaging. Make sure to check in on your friends from back home and tell your family you miss them.
Homesickness can be very overwhelming at times. A good strategy is to find something to do and get busy. A lot of students have been in your position before you. Moving to a new country, starting a new program, and meeting new people is stressful, but it gets easier with time. After a few days, weeks, or months, you will grow attached to your new home away from home. In the meantime, focus on your studies, get a new hobby, or find a part-time job.
Sometimes, if you’re overwhelmed, you can just take a walk outside. I know the weather might not be great most of the time, maar jij bent niet van suiker gemaakt (but you’re not made of sugar). If the weather is not the best, put on some rainproof clothes, take an umbrella, put in your earbuds, and listen to some music while walking through the streets of Groningen and its surroundings. There are times when all you need is a little 10-15 minute walk to clear your head and remind you that things will work out in the end.
Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give you is that you should not try to stop feeling homesick. Instead, allow yourself to experience these emotions. It’s okay to miss hanging out with your friends from your hometown. It’s okay to miss the feeling of your old bed. It’s okay to want to get a coffee at your favorite café. Let those emotions out. Cry if you have to. You’ll feel much better after, trust me. Your home will always be there, it isn’t going anywhere. While you’re here, try to enjoy yourself and focus on feeling like you’re at home in Groningen.
~ Written by A. Heric