Introducing culture shock and homesickness

Last spring, I provided you with the hitchhiker’s guide to the exchange application. Time flies by and I bet there are people who are at least as excited as I am right now – January is getting closer and closer real fast and soon we’re about to hop into another adventure!

I was about to give you another guide on how to proceed with the other applications from now on, but I figured y’all know what to do, since the instructions we have got, for example, from the International Services have been irreplaceable. Then another thought popped into my mind. Like most of the exchange students who are (hopefully) enjoying their time here in Jyväskylä, we are going to face some other “issues” when going abroad for a relatively long time period: culture shock and homesickness.

These two are things that can’t really be talked too much about. Exchange is for sure going to be one of the greatest experiences of our lives, but these are things we need to acknowledge and be ready to face. When staying in another country a bit longer than just for a vacation, there are things that might at first make you feel even uncomfortable. When I was an exchange tutor, I heard things my exchange students found weird about Finnish culture and adapting to those things was hard for them. Finnish culture is not the most social one, so I remember my tutorees struggling, for example, with issues related to that.

I went to Texas a few years ago for a youth exchange program and at the beginning when even strangers asked me how I was I felt a bit overwhelmed. You know, if somebody asks you the same thing in Finland, a Finn can’t stop thinking where they know the person from. It’ll probably haunt them for good.

Homesickness is a real thing, too, and it’s nothing to feel ashamed of. Going abroad, even for an exchange, and leaving your friends, family and other things behind (I’d rather not say behind since you’ll most likely come back to them, sooner or later) is a fairly big thing, and for sure at some point you’ll start missing your life back in your home country. I bet our international students have personal experiences about this.

Everyone will have ups and downs when starting a new phase in their lives. I had ups and downs when I started my studies and a new life in Jyväskylä, so I sort of know what I’m talking about. When the new exchange students arrive in Jyväskylä, the first things they’ll hear about include culture shock and homesickness. It’s important to acknowledge their existence since once they hit you, you’ll know what’s the name of the game and what will make you feel a bit easier.

The most important thing is to remember that you’re not alone if these things hit you. Quite a few of the others will be facing the same issues; it might help you to share your feelings with your new friends and discuss what could you do to make yourselves feel better. Just remember: facing these things is normal.

I hope you’re ready for one of the best times of your lives!

Jasmiina Kumpulainen | Exchange and degree tutoring responsible

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