Saturday 26 November 2011

Blog VI: Homesickness

The thing we hear about most when preparing to study abroad is homesickness. At that point in our university careers we usually know what that feels like and how to deal with it because we all, to some extent, experienced it when we arrived at uni. But study abroad homesickness is way different than the typical uni homesickness because not only are you not living with your parents anymore but you are no longer even in your own country. Like many things we are told we will never fully understand what is meant until we experience it for ourselves, foreign exchange homesickness is a key example. Now my homesickness (which is quickly becoming an annoying and overused word so I am going to change it to HS) may be worse than most because I’m not with a program, I directly enrolled as an exchange student, and I’m a bit of a hermit-though I joined societies I don’t actually attend any of the events and I’ve always preferred my own company to others. I have concluded that though my preferences to be alone versus with others is fine while I am at my home institute it is a bad way to go when in another country because my HS is mostly triggered by overwhelming loneliness, particularly during the holidays and during times of stress. In fact, recently I concluded that perhaps studying abroad was a bad choice because I have a minor anxiety problem and often blow things out of proportion which not only stresses me out but also can make me display signs of depression. For instance, last Saturday morning I was overcome with a fear of leaving my room and was terrified at the thought of simply opening my Chaucer book to do my reading, in fact, the thought of doing anything except sitting on my bed seemed utterly impossibly. Finally, at about one pm, after two random crying fits and overall panic I called my mom and was calmed down by her voice and brought back to a more sane place with her reminding me that I could come home at any time- though I refused this suggestion because honestly I’m afraid that if I go home I won’t want to come back and then I will feel like a failure because I had a breakdown and had to cut my exchange short, I’m not one to give up on anything even if it is bad for my mental and physical health.

I’m not saying that I feel HS all the time, mostly I’m very happy; I love my classes, always enjoy and look forward to wandering around Princes street (especially now because of all the Christmas cheer) and really like the majority of people that I meet and interact with. Like HS in college in the States, study abroad HS comes and goes but it mostly comes around holidays- because you are still in school while others are going home to visit their families-, when your flat mates are going home to visit their family, and when you are stressed and sick. The reason that my HS was so bad last week was because for the last three weeks I had not only been sick but was also very stressed about my three midterm essays that were due last Monday (14 November), along with my dad visiting all of the previous week and leaving on Thursday, followed hours later by me getting food poisoning, and concluding with the mouse ordeal on Friday, stack that up with very little sleep and no exercise and HS along with a depression attack is quick to follow.

I am lucky though because I have such amazing friends at home who care about me and email me all the time to remind me that I am still in their hearts – one of my close friends who is going to be in France next semester, even Skypes with me every week- so they help me fight off the HS by simply being there for me always just like they were when I lived minutes from them. Also, I was lucky with my flatmate Ghaz and her mate (now mine as well) Paula, who has taken me in as their friend and included me in their life and activities so I am not a complete hermit. I love Edinburgh and am happy that I am here but I do also miss home, a lot more than I ever thought I would, probably because by being here I have shattered the false world that I created before I arrived and have entered the real Edinburgh not the one of my imagination. Study abroad is an amazing, scary thing that will teach you things about yourself that you never knew, it will push your boundaries and force you to realize how incredibly important all of those people at home were. Most importantly by doing foreign exchange you will discover which friends truly care about you and which don’t, because the ones that take time out of their day just to email you or Skype you are the ones that truly love you, no matter what they are there for you whether you are right next door or an ocean away.