Homesickness Abroad

I’m from Rhode Island, so when I was starting the first few months of my freshman year at Emerson College, I was lucky enough to only be an hour bus ride away from home. In addition to the ease of the short distance and convenient transportation, I also spent my first couple of months at college suffering from a virus in my eyes. This unlucky circumstance forced me to not only wear my glasses until further notice (which all throughout high school you would have never caught me in), but also to return home much sooner than I had originally planned for my follow-up visits. By the time Columbus Day had rolled around, I had already been forced to go home twice.

Fast forward a year and I am currently enjoying the amazing opportunity of studying abroad at Emerson’s European Center at Kasteel Well in the Netherlands. I’m also having the not-as-amazing opportunity of experiencing homesickness for the first time. I’m 19, and if I can be honest, this is probably the longest time I’ve been away from home. Even if I couldn’t go home while I was in Boston, my parents always made the effort to come to me instead. In reality, I’ve never gone more than about six weeks without seeing my family face-to-face. I’m basically hitting that mark now.

What’s especially difficult about being home sick while studying abroad is that you can’t really tell your friends from back home or in Boston that you’re feeling down. Honestly, it’s probably the last thing any of them want to hear when they all would have killed for the opportunity to travel. So instead, when my friends and family members ask me how much fun I’m having in Europe, I smile tightly and say something along the lines of: “Tons! It’s just been so amazing! I’m having such a great time!” Which, don’t get me wrong, is true, but only to a certain extent.

The program here is designed to be fast-paced. We’re constantly going and going and going, never really having a chance to take a break and breathe. During the week we go to class and study, and then, come Friday morning, we’re up early, ready to take on a new European city and adventure. We are surrounded by so much overwhelming beauty and culture, trying to take both physical and mental photographs, while forcing ourselves to realize that this is actually real life.

There really shouldn’t be any time to be sad or homesick. Yet, there are still moments here where by some sort of miracle you may actually have the dorm room to yourself. Or maybe it’s the complete opposite. Maybe you are surrounded by people in the dining hall and your mind drifts back to what your friends back in Boston are doing. Maybe its noon and you so desperately just want to talk to that one particular person back home but its 6 a.m. there or maybe its 3 a.m. or maybe it’s 1 in the afternoon and he or she is just as busy as you are.

I’ve talked to a few people here about this topic and I know I’m not the only who has been feeling a little bit down among a mix of hundreds of other different and completely valid emotions. I think we all need to give ourselves a little bit more credit. It’s important to remind ourselves that there is nothing ungrateful or guilt-worthy about feeling sad while we are abroad. It’s safe to say that all of us have experienced the ups and downs of studying so far away from home, so far away from the culture of our home.  And hey, let’s give our friends a little more credit, too. We should be able to be honest with them about how we are feeling. Yes, we are having tons of fun and yes, it is an amazing experience. But there is also a little part in all of us that wishes we were a part of the same experiences our friends and family members are having back in the States. Just like they, too, are wishing they were a part of our European adventures here at the Castle.

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