One of the unfortunate effects of working abroad is – homesickness. As a novice ESL teacher, this is something that you are quite likely to experience after about one or two months of living in your new country. You should be aware that you will feel more homesick in foreign countries where there are greater cultural difference between your home country and the host country: this occurs because the phenomenon of cultural shock intensifies homesickness.
Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to lessen the effects of homesickness and thereby reduce your anxiety so that you can enjoy your ESL teaching and life in your host country.
Once homesickness starts to gnaw, don’t withdraw into yourself. Think positively! The first thing is to make sure that you never isolate yourself in your own misery: find someone that you can trust (a friend, a close colleague, or an older ESL teacher) and talk to them about your homesickness. Just talking about a problem can often have a great ‘therapeutic’ effect. Talk to anyone who you think can help you to overcome your homesickness. Phoning family and loved ones can also be very helpful.
Try to phone home once or twice a week, and write a letter once a week: make it something to look forward to. Weekend phone calls are the best because when you aren’t occupied you’ll probably feel more homesick. Phoning your parents, partner, or friends will also make them feel happy, and it will create the sensation of being at home. If you can, you should definitely make use of modern technology.
You can use ‘Skype’ or ‘Google’s Hangouts’ for video calling – it’s free and you can talk to your loved ones face to face. If you have got a good smart phone, you can install video chat apps such as ‘Skype’, ‘Hangouts’ (this is one of the few apps that allows public, live-streamed video chats) and ‘ooVoo’ (which is also free). Now you can literally have your friends and family with you wherever you are. Send emails rather than letters – it’s a lot quicker.
While you are living in your host country, make a plan of what you intend to do in your free time: this will keep you occupied and prevent you from getting homesick. As a suggestion, you should consider the following activities: visiting the sights with some of your colleagues; joining a sports club or gym; and engaging in after school activities. The more occupied you are the less homesick you will feel.
Homesickness can be combatted by socialisation, communication, and activities: with time it becomes manageable and eventually it disappears – then you can really enjoy yourself.