Confessions: That Three Month Feeling
There are many things we wish we could talk about before you get ready for your abroad experience (and if you want to talk to us, you can reach out here). However, one thing we would really like you to know is about something we call the three month feeling, something that happens around the three month mark of your journey abroad. What does this three month mark represent for us? This is the time when we have discovered that there is a transition from feeling like you are new to the city and have to work really hard to understand everything to when you start to get comfortable happens. However, it’s also that moment when you start to get comfortable that you let your guard down, and start to realize how far away from home, and everything you have previously known, you are and homesickness (or something similar*) appears.
This feeling, in our experience, usually hits strongest around three months into the adaptation period to a new place. That doesn’t mean that it cannot come sooner or later but that three months is about how long people seem to take before they start missing things that are different ‘back home,’ wherever that may be. Now, we would like to defend the idea that different isn’t bad, that normal isn’t necessary good, and that weird can be much better than the standard. However, when it comes to homesickness, different can make you feel like you are alone in the world and that you really just want to be back where you came from.
Why does this happen? Well, we find that during the first and second months abroad, people are usually in love with the adventure of being somewhere new; they relish in the ability to figure out what to buy in at the grocery store (read our guide to Spanish grocery shopping for more) and are consumed with how to organize their days. During this time you will be meeting new people and going out, living more like a tourist than someone who is living somewhere long-term (not necessarily a bad thing as we talk about in this post). You might be taking some sort of language course and doing meetups with people to find your place in this new home-away-from home but, essentially, the first two months you probably won’t even have time to stop and think because you will be so involved in the experience of the new place.
Three months seems to be around the time when we tend to get over the joy and amazement with the place that they now call home and start to remember fondly of all the things and people that are now far away. This might mean that you miss you family and friends or could be something as simple as missing how easy it is to figure out the banking system back home. You might discover that you are feeling sad or have the sensation of being alone. You will probably find that you are still enjoying the adventure of living abroad, but that you are also more aware of the things that are far away than before. This may lead to spending more time alone, thinking about where you are and why you decided to be there. While you might not begin to feel these things, we want you to feel prepared if you do.
Note: we are not health care professionals this blog is not designed as a way to help someone get over clinical depression and if you feel as though you might need a psychologist, we highly recommend it! find our list of mental health resources here. And If you need any help finding someone to talk to, send us a message and we will do our best to help you find a professional!
First and foremost, we believe that being aware that this might happen to you is the first step in being able to deal with this feeling. In addition, we want you to know that you are not alone—over the years, both Dani and Claudia have suffered from homesickness popping up, sometimes at inconvenient times or during the most wonderful experiences. Therefore, please know that this feeling is normal!
In addition, we would like to give you the same advice we try to give ourselves (and what we would tell you if we ever meet virtually or in person). Dive into your adventure head first―take advantage of it and enjoy every moment that you can. Don’t get down on yourself if you get to a point where you are wondering about the whole situation, about why you are there and not somewhere else. Remember, this three month feeling is normal and it is not the end of any journey, in fact, it might just represent the beginning of something new!
And, while this three month feeling may or may not disappear completely, we have definitely found that it becomes lighter as time goes on and you begin to really develop a home in the city you are living in (something that we recommend and dive into more in this post). Accepting the fact that sometimes you will feel a bit blue means that you will eventually arrive to the other side of your strongest homesickness feelings. Once you have passed this hump of acceptance you will find that there are beautiful moments and amazing experiences, even when you are sometimes feeling blue.
We would also like to recognize that months four and five of your abroad experience will probably mean making more friends, feeling more comfortable in your surroundings, and the opportunity to have visitors (or go travelling yourself). If you stay even longer, six and seven months in may even mean not wanting to go back home. It is only when you give yourself time to truly accept what you miss and settle in to where you are right now that you will be able to decide if your home abroad is right for you. And, if you are only here for a short period, before you know it, you will be heading back, full of new stories and ideas of what you want from life.
We talk more about the three month feeling here and will be talking about our tips and trick for dealing with it later this week. Let us know when this three month feeling hits you, if it does at all! And if you want to talk, feel free to drop us a line.
*Homesickness might not be 100% the right word to use here, but that does seem to be the most similar word―and as we talk about here, words can correspond to recognizing feelings―so, we referenced it in this article.