According to my WordPress Blog Statistics, assistants have been stumbling upon my blog via tapping various forms of “TAPIF” and “Homesick” and “Homesickness” and “France” into their internet browsing search bar.
Homesickness is really hard, and it’s definitely something I experience periodically in France. October is a difficult month (especially for assistants), because you spend your first few weeks getting settled in and checking bureaucratic tasks off of lists, while at the same time attempting to connect and make friends with the people whom were put in the same position as you, all whilst settling into a new job working a measly twelve hours per week and then suddenly being given two weeks of vacation with no structure of things to do or people to do them with.
My first wave of homesickness came around this time last year. I was living alone, hadn’t really yet established deep connections or friendships with many assistants, was having difficulties with my school, and had just planned a solo-trip (because no one wanted to come with me, but who could say no to 35 euro round-trip tickets to Barcelona?)
TAPIF blogs, like most other social media profiles, sometimes reflect only the best parts of being assistants or lecteurs. But don’t let the happy-go-lucky posts deceive you– it can be very hard, especially at first. You feel vulnerable. You feel alone. You feel anxious and unsure. And that’s normal.
So, you’re normal! Don’t worry! Below, I have put together a few tips of advice for conquering homesickness.
1. Surround yourself with people. Take initiative and reach out to other assistants, lecteurs, expats, colleagues, roommates or flatmates, and do something. Don’t always expect others to come to you. Plan a group dinner. Go grab a coffee at a café. Check out a new museum. Take a day trip somewhere. Join a local club or community event. Don’t sit cooped up in your room on Facebook. For me, surrounding myself with people and new friends is absolutely essential to my happiness and well-being. It will keep your mind off of home and help you focus on other things.
2. Invest in a hobby or project. Chances are, you’ll have more free time than you’re used to in France. Enroll in a class. Find a second job as a tutor. Study for the GRE. Train for a marathon. Create and conquer a bucket list. Start a blog (this definitely kept my busy, helped me improve my web design skills, and furthered my France network on social media).
3. Plan Events. This goes along with Tips #1 and #2. The holidays can be very difficult. Plan a Halloween Party. Organize American Thanksgiving. Introduce the idea of Secret Santa. Set up a language club at your school. Get others involved.
4. Develop or Revise your game plan. Remember why you came to France in the first place. Was it to travel? Was it to test your teaching skills? Was it to improve your French? Write down your goals and begin to accomplish them. Reference Tip #2.
5. Let it out. Don’t be afraid to talk about being homesick. It happens to everyone. Sometimes it helps just to talk about it with someone who’s in a similar situation.
6. Indulge. Please keep in mind that this is a very short-term, not permanent solution, but sometimes spending a day with your good friends Netflix, Jif Peanut Butter, and Root beer will do just the trick, especially if you have others to accompany you.
7. Keep in touch with people from home. I find that setting aside a day and time to call home every few weeks does the trick. My friends and family are very busy, so blocking off specific times for Skype sessions helps a ton.
Reflecting on my assistant year in the Côte d’Azur, as well as my study abroads in Normandie and Japan, I remember the good before I remember the bad. I remember the joy before I remember the sorrow. I remember the accomplishments before I remember the stress. Just remember that your time in France will most likely be a very short time in your life! Enjoy it and embrace it, even on the bad days. When you’re back in your home country, you may regret those times you sat in front of your computer while all of your friends went on that cool day trip. But, chances are, you won’t regret going on a day trip instead of sitting at home on your laptop.
Do you have any other advice for conquering homesickness? Leave a comment.