It takes bravery for a young person to chase their dreams and seek overseas opportunities by studying abroad.

Immersing themselves in in a new culture, meeting a wide range of different people, and trying out new experiences for the first time – it's an adventure!

It also takes support from parents, who have to be ready for their child to move away into an unknown city. Being worried about their well-being is a natural feeling. You will miss them, and they will miss you, and you want to know that they will be able to make friends and have a support network in their new home. And that they will be able to keep in contact with you.

Homesickness can be tough and dealing with it alone can be even tougher. So, we talked with some international students currently studying at Deakin University in Australia about moving and how they overcame their homesickness.

We asked Sayine, a student who moved from Sri Lanka to study a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at the Deakin's Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus, about her experience making an international move. 'I've never lived away from home and leaving [my family] 4000 miles behind emotionally did take a toll on me,' she said. 'I am an only child and was coddled my whole life and leaving behind my parents was one of the toughest decisions I ever made.'

But thinking about the journey ahead, Sayine made up her mind to make the big move. 'My parents supporting my decisions despite me being away from them is my motivation because that gave the confidence that they believed in me and what I am capable of.'

Stay connected with home 

Technology has helped Sayine avoid being homesick and helps her parents from missing her too much. Sayine says it is hard to juggle staying in touch while working part-time and studying, but they speak every day! 'My mom's calls are the main things I look forward to during the day. Talking to her always makes me emotional but it's what keeps me more rooted to home without losing touch,' she said.

She says the first few months away from her parents and pet dogs was 'mentally exhausting and sad' but with time, 'it got easy to deal with. Calling my mom and forcing her to send more videos of my pets is what I look forward to.'

Immerse themselves in their new environment

One of the best things your child can do to prevent loneliness is live in university accommodation, known as 'Res'. They will be surrounded by people with similar interests while living in this safe and welcoming environment.

Moulishri moved from India to study at Deakin's Melbourne Burwood Campus. 'Living in Res is one of the decisions I feel happy and proud making,' she said. 'It's so safe and peaceful and the activities that are available for the residents to participate is an added bonus. Having the opportunities to explore and socialise with different people has been an enlightening experience.'

On arrival in Australia, Moulishri immersed herself in the university experience. She participated in a variety of university-led activities, such as campus tours, museum tours, social moonlight cinema, and BBQ events at residence. 'I missed home but I also knew that I found a new home here, at Deakin. Every day is exciting and filled with new opportunities, events and adventures.'

Sayine agrees that living on campus makes it easier to fit in and make new friends. 'Finding people to bond with and making time to start new things really helped me find my way through the sadness,' she said. 'Living in Res is one of the decisions I feel happy and proud making. It's so safe and peaceful and the activities that are available for the residents to participate is an added bonus.'

'There are loads of activities such as food trucks, movie nights, coffee runs and more. I thought that I would feel out of place in a foreign land, but my housemates are really kind and [I] made a lot of friends just days into living at Res.'

Reach out for support 

Even with new friends and staying connected with family, homesickness is perfectly normal. It may take time to overcome but the most important thing is that your child has someone to reach out to if the need support. Deakin is ranked Victoria's #1 university for student support* and there are plenty of channels for students to reach out to if they need help.

Deakin has counsellors as well as multi-faith chaplains on all campuses who are there to help students in times of need. There are also student-to-student support networks, where new students can talk to someone who has been through the same experience.

'I've really got to say how helpful the staff has been for this whole journey because without them I would have been so lost,' said Sayine. 'As an international student who just left home – leaving everything behind and afraid of the future – it was really a peace of mind to know that the staff is reliable and the whole environment is peaceful.'


*2021 QILT