Battling Homesickness Abroad

Ahnika on a Game of Thrones tour in Northern Ireland. Ahnika White

Written by  May 31, 2017

People's lives don't pause while abroad, which can be difficult to accept.

Homesickness was not a feeling I was very familiar with for nearly half a year into my life in Ireland. Was I sad to miss Christmas with my family? Sure, I was disappointed, but I spent my day climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, so I really didn’t have much to complain about.

I loved every detail of my new life, and sure I occasionally longed for the comforts I was used too—at one point even Googling how I could get bacon sent to me from the States—but those were minor comforts I knew I could easily adjust to life without. Those things would always bet here whenever I went back for visits.

While living abroad, I have had friends go through life events that I did not get to be apart of. Friends who got engaged, and others who got married. Some who moved across the country, and some who got pregnant.

The home I left will never be the home I go back to. In just six months, it had been irrevocably changed. The life I left had no husbands involved yet or babies, or friends living anywhere outside a 30-mile radius of our high school.

From someone on the inside, you don’t tend to see these moments as pivotal. Sure, I missed a few engagements, but does that mean I’ll miss the wedding? It is easy to make this point, but from the outside looking in that compromise does not offer much comfort because every moment feels like a big moment, and it’s just another moment missed.

I became increasingly aware that the lives of the people I care about weren’t going to pause while mine continued abroad, and for a fact so obvious, it was increasingly difficult to accept.

This homesickness originally stemmed from a fear of missing out, but then took on an entirely new form when I got the news of the passing of our beloved family dog.

I grieved for my loss and felt completely alone in that grief.

Nobody in my new life knew of my dog and how much she meant to not only me and my family, but our neighbours and friends. I grieved for my loss and felt completely alone in that grief even when in a room surrounded by my roommates and friends because those who truly understood what I was feeling were half the world away.

The combination of my homesickness, grief and graduate school overwhelmed me and kept me bedridden for days. I went back and forth between the idea of dipping into my savings and taking a few days off from graduate school to return home because as much as I loved Ireland, at that point in time the only desire I had was to return to the life that was no longer mine.

It took some time, and I’m not sure there is a universal method to reach the mindset that I did, but going home would not have brought my dog back to life. Neither would it turn back time so that I could celebrate the engagements or attend the weddings I missed. Those who moved out of state would still be living their new lives in the same fashion I left to live out mine.

Change, especially when there is seemingly little positive to see in it, is one of the hardest obstacles I have faced in moving abroad. So it is when I find myself focussing on the negative feelings surrounding my choice, that I list the positives because those are the kinds of thoughts that are going to help me get by.

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Ahnika White

Ahnika White is an aspiring travel writer from the midwestern United States living in Ireland, where she's pursuing her goal of earning a master's degree in English Literature at the University of Limerick.

Website: www.mywanderouslife.com

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