Are you an international Au Pair spending your Christmas in Canada? Away from your family and friends? A bit worried?
Here are a few tips from us:
Homesickness is the “distress or functional impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents.” It’s a predictable problem faced by most Au Pairs at one point or another. It frequently occurs when one travels and is separated from family, friends, and a familiar home environment. It may occur at the beginning or even well into your year. You may experience it multiple times, or in some cases not at all. Homesickness affects everyone differently; if you find you are the only one feeling a certain way, that’s okay – it doesn’t make you weak or less than anyone else. Everyone will have their own experience, whether it is a small bout or something you continually face. But like the flu, homesickness with pass eventually.
Some people may only feel a little loneliness, sadness or anxiety. Others may feel physical symptoms, like stomach aches, headaches, or even become depressed. These feelings are completely normal. Most of the time once the new surroundings and people become more familiar, feelings of homesickness go away.
Homesickness is usually connected with memories: food, music, scents, etc. Because of this, holidays can be an especially difficult time. But please try to keep in mind that this is a once in a life-time experience – you only get your Canadian Working Holiday Visa once. Live in the moment, focus on the now, and be open to the wonderful adventure that you have embarked upon.
In case you experience homesickness, please remember, this is an absolutely normal reaction and does not necessarily mean that you can’t enjoy your stay with your host family. Be patient! Give it at least two weeks. If you feel homesick, you might want to:
- Share your thoughts and feelings with your host family or Au Pair friends by opening up a conversation about travelling.
- Integrate yourself more into your host family’s life and suggest a family movie night or walk in the park.
- Make yourself busy by creating a routine: explore a new neighbourhood, join a language course, pursue your hobbies or approach other Au Pairs in order to stay busy. Do not hide in your room.
- Limit yourself to one call home every week as homesickness might be made worse by frequent, long telephone calls home. Most homesick Au Pairs feel more homesick after a call home than they did before they picked up the phone.
- Offer to cook a typical meal from your home country which will bring your culture closer to your host family.
- Make a “to-do” list of all the things you want to experience in Canada before you leave.
- Make your new home a home by making your space your own and feeling comfortable to use the house like any other family member (if you’re hungry go get a snack, if you need to do laundry don’t be afraid to ask how to use the machine).
- Talk to those in similar situations and you’ll find that being homesick is just a part of being abroad and it is manageable.
- Write in a journal daily to help clear any thoughts you might have and look back to see how much you have grown throughout your time in Canada.
- Reach out to your local coordinator with whom you can talk about homesickness or other problems.
During your year in Canada there will be times when it is easy, and times when it is hard. Working through the difficult times will make you a stronger person and you will gain so much from this experience! Try your best to be proactive and focus on the positive aspects of the situation. It’s okay to be homesick, but don’t revel in it – find something to do to help you get through it so you can get back to making the most of your time in Canada!