It has been just 2 days since the official midpoint of the program. The study abroad program I am in lasts 120 days total, the equivalent of a third of a year. A third of a year that I am not spending with my loved ones. While being abroad is filled with many adventures and new experiences, a huge issue that is often overlooked is being homesick. Homesickness is a serious issue that affects more students abroad than most people would like to admit.
When we go off to college, especially in Merced, we are taking our first steps into adult hood on our own; but in reality we aren’t really alone, especially if you live on campus. Even if you live off campus you still have plenty of resources to rely on, whether that be friends, family, or housemates. Meanwhile, going abroad is a whole other story. Maybe you know a person or two prior to going abroad, but the chances of that happening are highly unlikely. Even if you make really good friends in the program, you don’t really get to know them well enough to lean on each other’s shoulders when you are homesick. For this program specifically we lived with a group of people for the first 6 weeks, and for the next 6 or 10 weeks we live with a different set of people. Whether it’s 6 or 10 weeks it is still not enough time to get to know someone well enough.
In the States, when you feel homesick you can either go home, or you can hangout with people who are from the same city as you. Being abroad you are not only in a different city, but that city just happens to be on a whole other continent! So what do you do when you are homesick? Well you have 2 options: either solve the problem, or suffer the consequences. Some of you are probably thinking “well duh”, but let me just say that this is easier said than done.
You see to solve the illness homesickness, first you need to define what home is. This is where it starts to get tricky. See, everyone has a slightly different definition of home, so for this argument we will use my definition. To me, home is not somewhere you can find on a map, you can’t just GPS it. Home isn’t even a place! Home is how you feel, or rather how the people or things around you makes you feel. To me, like most people, home is when your loved ones (significant other, family, friends) are around. So how can you fix it? It’s not like you can just fly back whenever you feel homesick. There is no cure to homesickness; it is not a disease where you can just take medicine and you’ll be fine in a few hours, it’s much more complicated than that.
When you are homesick your emotions are sort of all tied together in a knot and they find a way to over take your heart and mind and put you in a place where you shouldn’t be. There are many different remedies for homesickness depending on how severe one is affected. For example, sometimes a simple phone call to your loved one(s) can fix it, other times a Skype session is what solves it. But what about the mores serious cases? What’s the cure for that? It’s simple… there isn’t one. All you can do is treat the symptoms and hope for the best; hope you can get through it and not break.
One of my favorite remedies is walking around and looking for things that look like my hometown (Long Beach), or eating food that my mother would make me as a kid. There is just something about seeing something similar to your hometown that makes you feel as if you were home for a weekend. Just today I was walking home and decided to take a different route and I found a street that has a strikingly similar view to that of the apartment buildings of Downtown Long Beach Area near Ocean Blvd (pictured above). I also found a street corner that besides all the funky looking spanish cars would look just like one back in Long Beach (pictured below)
Homesickness is real, sadly there isn’t much that can be done to fix it. All you can really do is try and stay positive and hope for the best. For you Star Wars fans, remember what Master Yoda said about trying, “Do or do not, there is not try”. The best piece of advise that I could give you is to stay positive, and always remember that you are not alone.