Confessions: That Three Month Feeling
I wish we could talk in person before you take off for your study abroad programme because I really want to talk to you about the three month mark. What is this three month mark? This is when I feel as though the transition from feeling like you are new to the city and have to work really hard to understand everything to when you start to get comfortable happens. However, it’s also that moment when you start to get comfortable that you let your guard down, and start to realize how far away from home, and everything you have previously known, you are and homesickness (or something similar*) appears.
This feeling, for me at least, usually hits strongest around three months into my adaptation to a new place. That doesn’t mean that it cannot come sooner or later but that three months is about how long I take to start missing things that are different ‘back home.’** Now, I am the first person who defends the idea that different isn’t bad, that normal isn’t necessary good, and that weird can be much better than the standard. However, about three months into my journeys homesickness tends to appear, no matter where I am or what I am doing.
The first and second months I am usually in love with the adventure of being somewhere new; I relish in the ability to figure out what I want to buy in which grocery store (I like to shop around) and how I am going to organise my days. During this time I am meeting new people and going out. I am (usually) taking some sort of language course or volunteering. The first two months I don’t really even have time to stop and think because I am so involved in the experience of the new place.
Three months seems to be just enough for me to get over the joy and amazement with the place where I am living and remind me how many other people I care about who are far away. As someone who holds many people near and dear to my heart but who takes at least a few months to make this kind of friendship, three months is an intermediary point where I am frustrated not to have any super close friends living in the same place. At the same time, I would say that my immediate family is very important for me and without them I always feel like something is missing.
The feelings can include being sad or having the sensation of being alone. I would not say that I am depressed*** because I am still enjoying the adventure, I am just more aware of what I don’t have in the moment than I was before. This may lead to spending more time alone, reading a book or walking around the city and grabbing a coffee, thinking about where I am and why I am there. And I think that this could happen to you too.
So I would like to give you the same advice I try to give myself (and others I know who are going abroad). Dive into your adventure head first―take advantage of it and enjoy every moment that you can. And don’t get down on yourself if you get to a point where you are wondering about the whole situation, about why you are there and not somewhere else. This three month feeling is normal―most of the people I talk to about living abroad know exactly what I mean when I mention it!
And this three month feeling may or may not disappear completely, but I have definitely found that it becomes lighter. Accept this process and I promise that on the other side of your strongest homesickness feelings are beautiful moments and amazing experiences even if you sometimes may feel blue. Months four and five mean true friends, feeling more comfortable in your surroundings, and the opportunity to have visitors (or go travelling yourself); six and seven months in may even mean not wanting to go back home; and, before you know it, you will be heading back, full of new stories and ideas of what you want from life.
So, let us know when this feeling hits you, if it does at all! And if you want to talk, feel free to drop us a line.
*Until I sat down to write this article I wouldn’t have even defined the term as homesickness, but that does seem to be the most similar word―and as Dani mentioned, words can correspond to recognizing feelings―that I can find.
**Back home is kind of an ironic term for me seeing as though since I was about 18 ‘home’ has been across the ocean from where I grew up.
***Like we have previously mentioned, this blog is not designed as a way to help someone get over clinical depression and if you feel as though you might need a psychologist, we highly recommend it! If you need any help finding someone to talk to, let us know and we will do our best to help you find a professional!