– Homesick students may dig a bigger, deeper hole, counselor says.

TALKING HELPS. Counsellor Berit Christine Nestås stresses that homesickness is a completely normal reaction to being abroad. You can work out a strategy together at Sammen Career and Counselling. PHOTO: JULIE GÜNTHER

According to Berit Christine Nestås, a counsellor at Sammen Career and Counselling, homesickness usually hits students a few weeks into their semester abroad.

– The first few weeks are in the honeymoon phase – it’s new, it’s exciting and they’re in a state full of positivity and curiosity. However, maybe after a couple of weeks or months, the everyday life catches you.

Students may begin to feel a bit different from Norway she says, and often miss the social support that they have at home.

Former exchange student Joseph Ballard (21) from the United Kingdom, who spent a year studying abroad at the University of Bergen in 2015-16, says that there were definitely times when he felt a bit homesick.

– Normally I’d get homesick when I was in a bad mood. I’d just get frustrated about little things and have this overly idealised idea about how much better England was.

Ballard emphasizes the several differences from his home country that made him miss home.

– The stuff I found hard were the different ways of doing things, like buying alcohol at weird times, not drinking in public, and don’t get me started on the prices!

Alone time is good every now and again, but there’s nothing like meeting up with Norwegian friends to help you forget about home.

Joseph Ballard, former exchange student in Bergen.

Symptoms of Homesickness

Homesickness can manifest itself in many different ways Nestås says.

– Students may feel more vulnerable or sadder and some students isolate themselves a bit. They withdraw and sit at home, think about the situation and dig a bigger, deeper hole.

As evidenced in a 2010 study from Everyday Health, other signs can include anxiety, irritability, loneliness and constantly thinking about home.

According to Nestås, the most important thing to remember when dealing with homesickness is to be open and accept that this is part of the journey. A good strategy is to find someone to talk with as opening up often means that other students will open up back, she suggests.

KEEP CONNECTED: Staying in-touch with your friends and family at home is important, but make sure that you reach out to people in Bergen too. ARCHIVE PHOTO: MARIE-LUISE DEIKE

Coping Strategies and Cures

Along with this, it can really help to get involved, past exchange student Ballard says.

– Definitely have activities and routines with other people. Alone time is good every now and again, but there’s nothing like meeting up with Norwegian friends to help you forget about home.  I’d definitely get involved in student societies earlier on.

Additionally, British exchange student Eilidh MacKenzie (19) who arrived this fall, has begun to feel more at home in Bergen recently, by exploring the city and the rest of Norway.

– To some extent I do feel at home here because I’ve already managed to create a lot of memories and I’ve made a huge effort to get out and explore the country.

MacKenzie offers some salient advice for other exchange students;

– Think about the big picture – you’re only here for a small portion of your life and it’s going to give you so many stories to tell. Explore Norway while you have the chance, make friends and just think about how small the world is – you’re going to be home soon!

Sammen Career & Counselling

If you’re struggling with homesickness and need someone to talk to, Sammen offers individual 45 minutes sessions with one of its advisors.

There are also 15-minute drop-in sessions available every weekday between 13.00 and 14.30.

Find Sammen Career & Counselling on the 4th floor of the Student Centre. Opening hours are Monday to Friday between 09.00 and 15.30.