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Journals from Semester Abroad in Nottingham England

2013-11-16 Homesickness

This particular entry is less about what I, or other Linfieldians, have been up to and is more about homesickness. It seems to a significant topic, and although it doesn’t happen to everyone, or not in the same ways, it’s still relevant to this semester abroad. I don’t  expect sharing my experiences will necessarily help anyone, but it will offer some insight into my own little brand of homesickness.

            My first couple weeks here in England, I was so blissfully happy. I was in a new place, in ENGLAND of all places, meeting new people, really enjoying the scenery of the English countryside, getting to know Nottingham and really liking it, preparing for classes (which we hadn’t had for four months). Things were looking way up. A guy I met on the coach from the airport to Nottingham mentioned homesickness, how the first stage is euphoria, and then it declines into a depression. For those first two weeks, I didn’t even consider homesickness as a possibility. I thought the next four months would fly by, that I would be so pained to leave England, and that I would continue to not miss home at all.

            Then out of nowhere, I became so dissatisfied, so unhappy, with where I was, and all I wanted was to go home.

            I became very attuned to all of the dissimilarities between England and the States: the lingo, mannerisms, etiquette, adjusting to English food on a vegan diet, and even things like living in a dorm instead of an apartment, taking the bus into town instead of driving, etc. These little differences built up in my mind until the dam broke and I suddenly couldn’t handle them anymore. It was all too unfamiliar, and I craved the familiarity and comfort of my home, my parents, my cats, of Oregon.

            I had hardly even Skyped with anyone at this point, and the lack of communication started to make me feel isolated. I reached out to my family and friends and finally spoke with them, sharing my sudden pains of being away from home—which both cheered me up to see them, but broke my heart to say goodbye.

            I started wondering why this was happening to me, so abruptly and without warning. Then I realized how difficult it is to be away for four months; it seems so easy, not too long and not too short, but that’s exactly the problem. Four months feels too long to be a trip or vacation, but too short to make Nottingham a proper homey place. I missed little things that made a home for me: a kitchen, my bicycle, all of my handy/convenient little possessions that I couldn’t bring. I’m stuck in this middle ground of transience, waiting for the semester to end but needing to make something of it so I don’t lose my mind.

Ultimately, I don’t think I could be doing better if I hadn’t spoken to people back home. Sharing my struggles with them, hearing their voices and seeing their faces, hearing about their lives, and enjoying each other’s company again…it was all very reassuring, comforting. As I said, ending conversations made me miss them even more, but I knew I could speak to them again whenever we wanted. I knew that they would want me to enjoy my time here, to take advantage of it. And I knew that I wanted that, too. I didn’t want to spend three months in Europe sulking about missing Oregon—I wanted to embrace the culture however I could. I wanted to go back to Oregon saying “I lived in England for four months,” not “I tried living in England for four months.” Here I am, nine weeks in, and I haven’t conquered my homesickness, but I’m adjusting to it. Homesickness was the last thing I expected, and no matter how hard it gets to think about home and not be there, I know this is a challenging, healthy, valuable experience, and I won’t regret it.

-Kensie Sempert

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