Feeling homesick? Jess Furney, our NUI Galway and Canadian Ambassador, gives us five ways to battle the bad feels while studying abroad in Ireland…

I still wander through the alleys, madly snapping pictures of the wizened old men smoking their cigars on the cobblestones lanes and of any particularly Irish artwork on the stone town walls. Sometimes it feels surreal and I like cataloguing my life here. My phone’s photo album is full of Irish signs, street décor and remnants from the holiday season, getting tea with new friends, nights out, goofy photos – and then there’s some snapshots of friends and family back in Canada, snapshots that make me pause on occasion when I recall the distance between us.

It’s easy to forget sometimes, due to the pervasiveness of FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Viber and all this social media, that I really did make a transatlantic move and there’s an eight-hour difference in our realities. It’s easy to forget in building a new life in a new country our friends back home (something I am guilty of on occasion) and conversely, it’s easy to forget to let go enough of these people to be able to start something new here. I’m coming up to my year-anniversary of my move to Ireland, and since I’ve no idea what is next after I submit my thesis in August, it’s difficult not to get bogged down in the scariness of not knowing and missing the familiarity of home. For many in my program – myself included – homesickness is creeping up, and it’s important to address before it starts to overwhelm.

Five ways to battle homesickness here in Ireland:

  1. Take a day trip. A mini-getaway can do wonders as a distraction. A bunch of us travelled to the Aran Islands, and have a trip to the Cliffs on the books for when the weather clears up. Inis Mòr is the largest island of the three and was as pretty as the calendars say. We biked around its periphery, pet horses, and stopped far too many times to catch our breath (all that Irish bread and cheese catching up with us!) and take it all in.
  1. Instead of getting lost in clicking through Facebook profiles endlessly to see what people back home are up to, pull up your email and write one of those instead to a friend over there. It’ll allow you to reminisce on your experiences here, share the good and bad times, and allow your friend a peek into your life here as well. It’s hard to maintain friendships over distance, so this will allow for reconnecting through a medium that allows you to elaborate more and doesn’t require the instant back-and-forth conversation that may not be possible with the time difference.
  1. Pull out a sketchbook or your journal. Similarly to an email, it’s a way to both express your feelings and build a physical repertoire of your journey, yet also be present. Many here sit along the Long Walk or in a coffee shop in the bustling town with their tea and their books. If art isn’t your thing, try a postcard or letter.
  1. Join a local organisation or a school club. Or a gym. Or volunteer. One of my best decisions here was joining JCI Galway, an international network for young professionals and entrepreneurs; I have been so busy with events and meeting new people that I don’t have time to dwell on who or what I’m missing. Other ones to check out include NUIG’s student volunteering program, ALIVE; Amnesty International GalwayNUIG’s Harry Potter Society; the Sober Society; Galway City Harriers, a running club, and so on. Friends have joined CrossFit, book clubs, and writing groups, as well. Galway is a very diverse community in its interests and events – a simple Google search or chat with a Society Officer at NUIG will spark some inspiration, if this list hasn’t.
  1. Call up some friends and go to a trad music night at a pub nearby. Chances are you’ll get pulled up to do an Irish jig and you’ll soon forget your worries. The top five trad music pubs here in Galway are Taaffes Bar, the Crane Bar, Tigh Coili, Tigh Fox Trad House, and Monroes Tavern.

It’s important to remember the homesickness will ease. It’s normal to miss the old familiarity when things get stressful or a conversation with a close friend back home starts to get you doubting your choices. However, you are on the right path, and this will pass.

Interested in studying in Ireland? Visit the Education in Ireland website for more information.