Being away from home sucks — not only because your support system isn’t there, but because the culture of your new home may be completely foreign to you.

Picture this: You finally moved to your new home, settling in, and looking for things to at least make yourself feel at home. Maybe your favourite snacks? Or specific ingredients you need to make your comfort meals? Maybe after you can bring your friends for a little housewarming party?

But then, it all hits you that you’re miles away from home. Everyone and everything around you is so unfamiliar. That’s when the homesickness kicks in.

Sometimes, even the most prepared students need more time to be ready to face these impending changes. That’s why culture shock can happen to anyone.

However, this can just be a bump in the road. Studies have shown that 50%–75% of people have experienced homesickness at some point in their lives. However, if so many Malaysians have managed to find ways to feel connected to their home while they were away, you can too!

Home isn’t as far as you think

If you’re an incoming fresher, you will definitely hear about MSoc. But firstly, what’s MSoc?
Malaysian Societies (known as MSoc) exist in many UK universities to create a home away from home for Malaysian students.

Every year, MSocs put together a team to produce their biggest event of the year called Malaysian Night (known as MNight). This is your best chance to meet other Malaysians and create something together that celebrates home!

Additionally, if you’re feeling a little lost and maybe even lonely, you’re in luck because the mentor-mentee system is popular in many colleges and universities. Some MSocs provide programs where they put together a ‘family system,’ connecting the more senior students with freshers. The seniors would support the freshers as their own family to act as their guides, advice-givers, and most importantly, a friend!

It’s also common to get housing with other Malaysian students typically through referrals from other students or Facebook housing groups. This means that support is always within reach. You can easily carpool with your housemates to buy groceries or go to an off-campus event. If you’re looking to get some furniture, a car, and other useful appliances, you’re more likely to find someone who is selling their stuff away to other Malaysians before they graduate.

Food brings us together

Given Malaysians’ shared love for food, it makes sense that food brings us together even when we are abroad. Whether we’re meeting for a football game or a study session for reading week, food will obviously be involved in some way or another.

Potlucks are especially popular during special occasions like Hari Raya, Lunar New Year, and Deepavali, when you may not be able to return home to celebrate with your family. In a way, it’s an endearing and heartwarming experience to be able to share a holiday with different people – whether or not they’re Malaysian.

The very experience of contributing dishes and eating together ‘family-style’ symbolises the essence of community. It emphasises how Malaysians have each other’s backs and how it’s always possible to build communities wherever you are.

It’s all a process

When you’re in the deepest throes of homesickness, there will be those intrusive thoughts where you might think: “Is this degree worth it if I’m not feeling it?” During these times, it’s good to remind yourself that you need to be open to change and be at peace with the realities of your situation. Changing your perspectives on how you have to adapt to your surroundings will help you way more than you think.

Here’s a few tips to be mindful of:

  • For starters, establish a routine to help you get used to your new home. Whether it is through daily meditation or regular physical activity, implementing routines will help you feel grounded.
  • Encouraging yourself to be more positive or to make the most of your experience abroad is important if you want to survive on your own. Practise gratitude for everything, big or small.
  • Lastly, take the time and space to process your feelings! Take a step back, talk to someone you trust, a therapist, or a mentor of yours about your grievances. Being able to admit whatever you’re feeling is not always easy, but it truly sets you free once it is out.

At the end of the day, the feeling of homesickness doesn’t last forever. Instead, use the reality of living far from home as an opportunity to explore and make new communities of your own. Find your people, make the best out of your university experience, and learn as much as you can about yourself. Trust that you’ll find your way home wherever you are.