Congratulations on taking the next step in life, moving away from home to pursue your dream in New York City! You landed a great job, found a fun roommate, and are navigating the city like a scene out of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Suddenly, you notice something across the street at a nearby cafe. Is it them? Are they here to surprise you? As you raise your hand to wave and walk closer to the cafe, you realize you’re mistaken. You don’t know those people. And even worse, the knot builds in your throat, you realize you miss home — you really miss home.
It’s OK to feel this way, regardless of how old you are and how long you’ve lived here. We all have moments when we long for comfort, stability, and familiarity. They’re natural reactions to change. And while change can sometimes be uncomfortable, it’s totally manageable. Luckily those homesick feelings, says Dr. Frank Sileo, a New Jersey-based psychologist and Executive Director of The Center for Psychological Enhancement, LLC, won’t last forever.
“Moving to a place like New York City can be overwhelming, and it’s common for people to fill their own heads with negative thoughts about whether they will ever fit in or adapt,” says Sileo.
“Positive thinking is important, and we must remind ourselves that this is a short-term situation and inserting ourselves into a new community takes time.”
Know That You’re Not Alone
When the wave of homesickness hits, take comfort in knowing you’re not the only fish out of water — far from it. New York City gained more residents between April 2010 and July 2014 (about 316,000 people!) than any other U.S. city. The immigrant population has also doubled since 1965, and 37 percent of New Yorkers are from abroad — and that’s not even counting the number of people who have moved here from out-of-state.
So, know that you’re not alone even when you feel alone. Cities like NYC are an expat’s paradise, and you should feel better knowing you’re among countless people experiencing the same challenges of adjustment.
Talk to Someone in Your Shoes
Another step towards getting over homesickness is to talk about how you’re feeling. Don’t sulk alone — connect with others! Not only will it get your mind off your troubles, it’s also been proven that shared human experiences can both mentally and physically make us feel better.
“As children, when we feel homesick, the common reaction is to cry and run to ‘mommy’ or ‘daddy.’ But as adults, we hesitate to express certain emotions or may feel embarrassed,” Sileo says.
You don’t have to shut yourself off from those back home, but don’t rely on them entirely to get you through your transition, either. Try to keep busy, advises Sileo, and find people in your shoes to bond with — like your roommate. More than likely, you share a lot more in common than you think.
Ask your roommate about their favorite family traditions, or what they love best about where they’re from. Sharing these experiences with one another can help create understanding and trust between you. It could also lead to an unforgettable road trip to your roommate’s home town — a place you may have never thought to visit otherwise!
Recreate Your Memories
The best part apart moving to a new city is having the opportunity to make new memories. Brainstorm with your roommate how you both can recreate some of your favorite memories or traditions in your new home. Try attending an alumnae game-watching party, spending time getting crafty for your apartment, or preparing your favorite meals. For the foodies, a a homey dish can be everything to help you feel at home when you’re far away — and it’s the perfect centerpiece to your social gatherings.
“Introducing someone to good Tex-Mex always makes me feel a little better,” says New Yorker and Texas expat Liz Prentice. “Also, find a bar that has Shiner and frequent it! Shiner Cheer is especially comforting during the holiday season.”
“Make queso every chance you get,” adds fellow New Yorker and Texas expat Emily Shelton. “And invite friends over for breakfast tacos.”
Keep Home Close to Your Heart
Regardless of where home is, it holds a special meaning because your experience there helped shape who you are today. Jewelry maker and precious metal artist Rachel Sudlow uses her craft to help people stay close to home in a special way.
“I love maps, travel and personalized jewelry. I’ve found that customers really connect and treasure a piece that’s made specifically for them,” says Sudlow.
“I’ve seen [my necklaces] gifted to high school graduates who are moving on to college, or to lovers who want to celebrate a long distance relationship. It’s so much fun to create a special memento for each customer.”