Growing up I had a strong belief that I so intensely disliked where I lived that I just had to move away as soon as possible. And when I say move away, I mean pack it up and move across the country to a place I knew nobody. Soon enough after graduation I was packing up my life in a few massive suitcases and flying to Worcester, Massachusetts with my parents to move me into my first year of college. I left a peaceful, quiet town in the Pacific North West that exuded the most relaxed atmosphere to a campus community of affluent, prep school kids who all looked like they stepped out of Jcrew and Vineyard Vines websites. The campus came equipped with old, ivy-laden brick buildings that seemed to have been created form my dreams and I couldn’t wait to create a new life here. Fast-forward a few months and you’d see an overly emotional teenager calling home at late hours of the night begging to come home. I missed home, missed my parents, missed my then-boyfriend, and missed the ease and comfort that came with the known and the familiarity that I took for granted my entire life.
The Minster, near the University of York
So naturally, after becoming comfortable and creating an at-home vibe over two years, I packed it all up again and traveled across the world to York, England and started everything over again. Similar feelings of loneliness and homesickness would creep up on me unexpectedly the first couple of months abroad, especially during my second term (which just started a month ago). Through these two big moves I’ve discovered that I love home and have a very hard time with change. So why do I keep moving my life to vastly different places and starting over? I guess I’m a sort of dreamer/romantic who has these big ideas of grand adventures and new areas, meeting people and turning strangers into lifelong best friends. This is all fine and wonderful in theory, but when halting experience of homesickness hit these ideals become a bit harder to obtain. So how have I managed to cope during these big moves, as well as trying to excel at the same time? Well, I’ll tell you….
- Say yes. This applies to almost every new and drastic move, I feel. This was especially applicable when moving to England. I am currently more secure in who I am as a person than I was as an 18 year old and with this confidence comes a greater ability to connect with a wider range of people. The first two months I was here I was constantly busy, constantly surrounded by other people. On one particularly memorable night I was just about to tuck in with a book and some blankets when a friend asked me to join her on a pub night to meet other students. I was so close to saying no, but gave in after remembering my “Say Yes” rule. That night, I met my current best friend here in England and it brought me to many of my other close friends that I have here!
- Don’t be afraid to cry. I am a definite crier, and I don’t think that will ever change. I’ve gone through the phases of holding it in and never speaking about my feelings, but let’s be honest, that never works for anyone in the long run. Sometimes what truly helps is lettings out those tears you’ve been holding back. Whether it’s homesickness, frustration, confusion, anger, sadness…I truly believe letting that emotion out is a great first step to getting past it.
- Don’t isolate yourself. This is similar to the “Say Yes” rule. During my first two years at college I always had people in and out of my room and always had (at least) one roommate. This constant energy and buzz of people truly helped me because it was a great distraction from any sadness I may have felt. Surrounding myself with my friends always makes me feel better, no matter what. Here in York it’s a lot easier to become isolated because I have a single room. Even now I have to remind myself to get out of my room and check what my friends are up to.
- Become comfortable being alone. I know this is almost opposite of what I’ve been saying, BUT this is extremely important. No one wants to be around people 24/7 (fellow outgoing introverts where you at?) and having time to refuel and be with yourself is a great relaxer. Sometimes I venture into the city of York and sit in a café by myself for the day, or wander around the shops. Being able to be comfortable with being alone and happy in who you are is essential in life. Being alone does not mean you’re lonely. Finding this balance is so important and I myself am still working on it.
- Dedicate yourself truly and fully to your new surroundings. This was an especially hard thing to do my first few years of college when I was dating someone back home. I cannot stress enough so necessary it is to detach yourself at some level from home. This does not mean you have to forget it and never talk to anyone at home ever again (I speak with my parents and friends from home all the time). However, do not become so stuck back in your old life that you do not make new connections and memories in your new home. I used to be so caught up in staying connected to all my friends and family back home that I was missing so much of what was going on around me! Finding that nice balance between being fully present in your new surroundings and staying connected to home is hard but worth all the effort.
- Have FUN. Recognize how exceptionally lucky you are to even be in a new place. When I’m feeling down and out about where I am I have to stop myself and think about where I am and how I have this amazing opportunity. Take everything in, focus on the good and brush off the bad.
My college in Massachusetts, end of the second semester 2015
I can’t remember who said this or where I found it, but this has always stuck with me: In 10 years you don’t want to be in the exact place/situation you’re in right now, so why are you afraid of change? I reflect on this often. Change can be scary and daunting, especially moving so far out of your comfort zone, but change is immanent and can be a great thing. Even if a path seems to be pushing you back from what you want, it’s just a diversion and is setting you up for greater success than you know.