Jiawen Cui, one of our Chinese Student Ambassadors, tackles a really important issue in her first blog: homesickness

“A lonely stranger in a foreign land, I doubly pine for kinsfolk on a holiday.” – Wei Wang

I believe most young people like me left their hometown for further education when they were only around 20 years old. Naturally you feel homesick when you move to an alien environment without your family and friends around you. It is a very normal phenomenon that you do not need to feel embarrassed by.
But how you deal with homesickness is what matters. In this blog, I will discuss my own experience with homesickness in order to share some ways to reduce feelings of homesickness while studying abroad.

Keep yourself busy
Keeping yourself busy is the key to adapting to a new environment. Move your attention away from your feelings of homesickness by focusing on your studies, joining college societies and actively participating in activities.
For example, here in Athlone, there is a diverse range of societies in Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) such as the International Society, the Chinese Society and the Soccer Society. Joining societies allows you to meet like-minded people with similar interests and hobbies.
There are also plenty of activities provided by AIT. One of the important events for Chinese students is the Spring Festival. It is a time for Chinese students to reunite with their families. AIT celebrates this special day and many other activities for Chinese students to alleviate homesickness every year.

Find your group and cook traditional food together
Nowadays, technology is getting more advanced. You can easily make friends who live in the same city, study in the same college or are the same nationality through social media networks. This is a good way to adapt to a new environment.

Try to share your feelings with your new friends and do not be afraid to speak about your feelings; otherwise it could make your homesickness worse. You can invite the friends you make over to cook some traditional food together, which will make you feel less homesick.

Go out and explore new things
It is inevitable that you will feel homesick when you are in unfamiliar surroundings, so going out and exploring new things in your new life is a wonderful way of dealing with homesickness. But obviously bear in mind the Covid restrictions!
You can go out and walk along the Shannon, which is the longest river in Ireland. There are usually some pigeons on the bank of the Shannon. I think feeding pigeons is a very calming activity. It is like pinning my feelings of homesickness on these pigeons and letting them fly away.
Athlone is situated in the centre of Ireland, so it is very convenient for travelling around Ireland when we’re allowed. You will be able to find many interesting places to visit during your travels
Although it is normal to feel lonely and homesick, it is still vital to look at the good side of your new experiences.

Keep in touch with your family
No matter what happens, your parents and other family members will always be there for you. Keeping in touch with your family and friends makes you feel more engaged with your own home.
A good way is to put a video call with your family in your schedule and talk to them about your daily life, new friends and new surroundings. This helps close the physical distance and the feelings of isolation.

Ask for help
If homesickness becomes a big issue in your daily life, you should ask for help! You should not be ashamed to ask for help. AIT provides a mental health counselling service. If you have any issues, do not suffer in silence.

Jiawen Cui is doing a Bachelor of Business in the Athlone Institute of Technology