I was speaking to a group of engineering students in a prestigious college in Pune. Most of the students were excited about job prospects. Some of them had good offers in their hands, while some of them were waiting for the final placement season.
During the session, one student asked me a fascinating question. He said, “In your opinion, what is the most critical aspect of preparedness which is neglected by almost everybody? And how it affects the professional growth of an individual and to what extent?”. It was a unique question for me.
Though the question was unique, it was not a difficult question for me. I have had first-hand experience of this terrifying experience throughout my career. I was ready with my answer.
In my personal opinion and experience, one of the most neglected aspects of career preparedness is ‘Homesickness.’ We are so focused on academic excellence, communication skills, and other stuff that this very personal aspect of feeling away from home is neglected, ignored, or overlooked.
Generally speaking, a feeling of homesickness is never discussed openly. It is considered a weakness of the character. One’s inability to cope with the new environment, new place, and unfamiliar people…
Nobody seeks help or counsel to overcome the dreadful feeling of detachment from the home, family, and friends. It is a taboo subject. I tried explaining this point.
In the modern world context, let us assume that we are smartphones. ‘Homesickness’ is an inbuilt app that is installed on all smartphones (I mean all of the mobile operating systems, e.g., iOS, Android, Bada, Blackberry even Symbian. I know some of us are still running on Symbian). Parents and families are the ‘Carriers’ which provide the voice/data connectivity service. We have powerful processors and huge inbuilt memory with the possibility of extending the memory to a great extent. We have high-resolution cameras to capture beautiful moments in our lives. Selfies and HD videos are adding to our self-esteem and self-confidence. Email applications and SMS services are making it easy for us to be in touch with near and dear ones along with taking care of professional work to a certain extent. We are adding new apps depending on our likes and passions. Some of us are Crushing Candies while others are enjoying ‘Temple Run.’ A few of us are content with ‘Merriam Webster app while others are using Skype and video calls extensively. Life is fantastic. Battery capacity is good; we get to recharge them regularly. Carrier’s signals are strong; we are not facing any dropped calls or ‘No Signal’ zones.
The ‘Homesickness’ app has access to all our data, messages, photos, emails, Cameras, and call records with all the contacts. It is deactivated by default. It gets activated when the smartphone (person) leaves the carrier’s operating area and our phone number’s home territory. Once the smartphone, i.e., you exit the home territory, you are said to be in Roaming Profile. The smartphone senses the change in the territory, and the ‘Homesickness’ app gets activated. This app does nothing productive; it just uses the processing and storage capacity of the smartphone to decrease the performance levels of the phone. It results in a serious drag on the performance and battery life of the smartphone. Smartphone performance degrades to a great extent while the battery starts to drain quickly. Frequent recharging and processor overutilization starts causing overheating, and smartphone starts stalling or rebooting without any errors or messages. ‘Homesickness’ app in some cases opens backdoors in the operating system for hackers and malware to enter inside the OS and corrupts the system. I am talking about bad habits and the wrong type of friends here.
‘Homesickness’ application has very common symptoms for national roaming and international roaming issues. International roaming costs much higher compared to national roaming. Technological advances and personal/professional training have controlled domestic roaming charges at a minimum as of now. Inter-circle roaming charges and performance degradation has stopped to a great extent, but the capacity to cope with the changes varies from phone to phone, i.e., person to person.
Let me stop before the smartphone-person analogy becomes far-fetched. We are talking about the inevitable issue of Homesickness all of us face whenever we leave our family/friends, familiar atmosphere, and lovely hometown in search of better career prospects or some other grand motives.
Homesickness is not limited to children or young adults who are leaving their homes for education or training. It affects people of all age groups and professions. Seasoned professionals leaving their hometown or country for onsite assignments in a foreign land face the same issues. Every man and woman face Homesickness at some or another point in time. Whether any of them accepts it or not is a different question altogether. I will go to the extent of saying that many of us don’t even understand that we get infected with the ‘Homesickness-itis’ virus.
MODERN WORKLIFE and HOMESICKNESS
Amidst the Fourth Industrial Revolution, advanced technologies, communication mediums, and transportation facilities are shrinking the geographical and political boundaries. It is very easy to move from one city to another, from one state to another, and from one country to another now. We are global citizens. Some of my friends are having their breakfast in New York, lunch in London, and Dinner in Dubai. (It becomes exceptionally tiresome and annoying after a particular time, but they have to do it in their professional capacity).
People are leaving the hometowns and families behind in search of better prospects and a prosperous future. Very painstakingly nurtured support systems in terms of family/friends, the familiar atmosphere gets left behind. Attachment to hometown or the place where we have grown up starts pulling us back to the place.
Let us understand what Homesickness is and how we can manage it.
The most straightforward meaning of Homesickness is longing for home and family while absent from them. The technical definition of ‘Homesickness’ is the distress or impairment caused by an actual or anticipated separation from home and attachment objects such as parents or spouse or children.” Nostalgia is one more aspect, but it is related to yearning for the things of the past while being present there, whereas homesickness is related to absence from the place and the things.
It can manifest in various ways. The crucial point is to understand the symptoms and taking the right steps to cope with them. Physical symptoms include constant or frequent crying, sleep deprivation, changes in appetite, nausea, dizziness, and headaches. Ignoring these symptoms can result in depression, anxiety, lack of concentration.
Homesickness is a modern age pandemic. According to a Gallup world poll in 2012, 1.1 billion people, or 25% adult population in the world were ready to move to another country for work. Additional 600 million were ready to move abroad permanently. Modern transport and communication technology is making It very easy. But coping with the mental or psychological aspect of this kind of relocation or emigration or immigration is not at all taken into consideration. Due to complete ignorance and lack of acknowledgment, this issue is assuming epic proportions resulting in loss of precious resources, time, and energy.
As we move in life, experiences and insights help us understand, manage, and cope up with the situations of homesickness pangs.
Various ways and means of managing the homesickness and turning it to our advantage are:
- Keep Busy
- Start Practicing healthy habits
- Initiate dialogue with people & make friends
- Indulge in your passions
- Be open to learning about foreign culture and their way of life
- Know the place in advance
- Find out the food joints
- Bring things from home with you like frames, books, and other stuff to maintain the connect
- Stay connected with your old friends and support systems
- Find good roommates
- Don’t alienate yourself with the place. They are not your enemies. They are least bothered about your tantrums and preconceived notions
- When in Bengaluru, Do like the Kannadigas… Enjoy Madi! ಎಂಜಾಯ್ ಮಾಡಿ!
- Keep your superiority complex at home because they were there before you went uninvited.
- Don’t fall into the trap of convincing yourself that you went to New York and then New York became a world-class New York City is the world-class city, and that is precisely why you have reached there to earn a few bucks. This self-aggrandizing attitude can get you into trouble with sons of the soil in the land of the brave and the free and elsewhere across the globe.
There is a lot of stuff to discuss on this topic but let us stop at some of my ways of coping with homesickness over an extended period…
- As a student in Pune, I used to visit LNCM (Limaye Natya Chitra Mandal) very frequently for movies.
- When I was looking for a job in Bengaluru in 2003, I have seen ‘Excuse Me’ a Kannada movie featuring Sunil Rao and Soumya in a Bengaluru theatre alone with hysteric Kannadiga Could not understand a word but it was fun.
- Similarly went for ‘Pithamagan’ a wonderful Tamil movie featuring Vikram and Suriya.. a powerful Tamil Again with a Tamil crowd and without understanding a single word.. but it is a fantastic movie. Watching Tamil blockbuster with Tamil fans is an out of the world experience. (Luckily I can blend in with Kannadigas, and the Tamil crowd very easily, some of them even started speaking with me in Kannada J… I managed by ‘Is it?’ ‘ಹೌದಾ?’
- Get lost in the Bannerghatta national park
- Drive solo to Ooty or Mysore on pulsar
- Catch Virar train from Churchgate and come back…on Sunday.
- Still, remember watching ‘Swades’ screening in Bengaluru… Shahrukh with Dhom dam near wai in the backdrop…my native place Satara…
Homesickness cannot get worse than this……..
though we learn to manage it as we grow up, it never goes away completely… It is a blessing in disguise.
Thank god, it keeps us reminding about our roots and where we come from.