Home Sweet Homesick

Homesick?

There are quite a lot of people who experience homesickness, but just because you may not think you are, remember that it can come in many forms. I personally experience little to no traditional homesickness. Summers spent across the country at camp for months at a time cured me from this normal feeling. When I moved across the country to go to college I never had the achy sadness of missing the past, and it is not to say from time to time I didn’t think about friends and family or even my puppy! However, I never went through traditional homesickness. Going abroad has not been very different. Of course I was nervous and anxious about quite a lot of new things, but I have been easily caught up in the excitement of the new environment and different experiences. Homesickness is, by no means, a bad thing! It is natural! But like most things, it is about moderation, putting your privilege in check, and being in a mindset of taking advantage of the new experiences in front of you. Remember that you can simply survive abroad, or you can LIVE while you’re abroad, and that is much more fun!

Belfast at dusk, a beautiful time in the city
Belfast at dusk, a beautiful time in the city, but evenings often yield themselves to homesickness

-Moderation-

Missing people or things from home is natural. In the inconsistency that is the Abroad Experience, it is normal to miss some of the things that are staples in home life. The problem with giving in to homesickness is letting it consume you. If missing home becomes the main focus of your trip, this could become detrimental to the experience as well as harmful to your wellbeing. To keep yourself in moderation, I recommend:

  • Talking to family and friends once or twice a week. Don’t spend your entire trip on Skype!
  • Try joining the gym. If it is something you consistently do at home, it might help you feel more stability. (This has been a great decision for me! I love being able to work out to handle stress).
  • Make your favorite meal! Share it with the people you’ve met as a way to positively talk about and share memories of home. You could also watch a tv show or movie with people. For Halloween I organized a movie night in my house to watch Hocus Pocus, Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride, which helped me feel better about not being home.
Sharing Halloween Traditions
Sharing Halloween Traditions

-Check your Privilege-

This “p” word tends to turn people off, but I think abroad is a time to reflect on where you come from. This reflection can bring up bouts of homesickness, but it is important to map your growth. Think about what things you are missing and consider if they are really necessities worth whining over. Also, recognize that people you meet are going to have distinctive experiences, come from diverse places, and potentially have very different outlooks than you. If you feel out of place because of this, don’t worry! This is also ordinary. Here are a few ways to handle this:

  • Take a moment to recognize that it is OKAY for people to be different than you, it makes the world more interesting. Living with 15 people from all over the world in my house, view points can be very different! But take advantage of this. I have learned so much about the politics of the EU, European immigration, and even capitalist theory, topics I would probably never read about or take courses on, but have now explored in a bit of depth.
  • Don’t make other people feel stupid for not having the same experiences as you. If there is something you think most people know, even silly things like chocolate chip cookies or Dr. Seuss, don’t belittle someone for not having knowledge about them. (I have seen Americans do this and it just makes you look more foolish)
  • Keep a journal. Even something basic, where every day you write down one thing that you learned to think about differently or something someone said that challenged a belief. I have personally started this, and it is a great way to remain open to new ideas, as you can search for things to write in your journal!

*Also remember that many people who would like to go abroad don’t have that opportunity, so you are privileged in going and should not take that for granted* 🙂

-Take Advantage of the New-

Abroad is not about doing things the way you have always done them. This is the most important thing to remember when mentally preparing for your trip. Things are going to be different! Sights, sounds, foods, people, will all present chances to get out of your comfort zone. But don’t mope about what your new local doesn’t have, instead delight in the new!

  • Try cooking new meals, buying different things from the grocery store or market, or just eating different food in general. It is not the time to be picky! Food is a bonding time for many cultures and it can offer you insight into greater pieces of the new world you’re in if you eat the food.
  • Words, words, words. I am in a country which speaks English, but the accent can sometimes be a challenge. Try to be comfortable with the new language or accent around you! When you get back to the states it will sound so plain, this is the time to love the different sounds.
  • Moping or complaining about the differences gets you nowhere. Try to have a mindset that allows you to enjoy the differences, rather than constantly contrasting them.
  • Get involved! Attend campus events you may not  go to at DU or join a new club. Belfast is filled with active school groups and they offer open activities to the whole campus!
Attending an open stage night hosted by Queen's Players was new, but I loved it!
Attending an open stage night hosted by Queen’s Players was new, but I loved it! Belfast really supports its local arts!

– Jessie GG, DUSA Blogger

 

Forethought and Hindsight: Packing for Abroad

After a month of adjusting to the Belfast life, I can say I feel much more at home. I am more knowledgeable about navigating the city, campus, and the nightlife. I am still adjusting to things like military time and using the currency, but those are understandably taking a bit more time. Being comfortable comes in waves, and is mostly about your mindset. Sometimes though, it can come down to the things you have and the things you need, and their ease of access. This being said, I have compiled the following list of things I am very thankful I brought on this journey with me, and well, the things that if I could have had the foresight to bring I would have.

  1. My Camera: This one probably is the most obvious, but I had to mention it. Before coming abroad I invested in a DSLR Canon Rebel and a few lessons to make sure I could really capture moments from my time here to share with friends and family back home. If you don’t want to make the investment or really don’t care for picture taking, consider just bringing a basic digital camera, or even a smart phone in airplane mode, and using it to capture some of the memories.

    Glad I had my camera to capture the Lanyon Building, the most photographic building on campus
    Glad I had my camera to capture the Lanyon Building, the most photographic building on campus
  2. Towel/Sheets: These depend on what kind of living situation you are in. I live in an on campus house style accommodation.  My first night in Belfast, I was happy I could shower and sleep on my own sheets. Although the school provided an option for buying a bed pack (which I did) the sheet was scratchy and it didn’t include a towel. These items took up space in my suitcase, but I was happy to have them once I moved in! Nothing like a shower after hours on a plane with a warm towel to wrap up in.
  3. Swiss Army Knife: If you bring this, make sure it goes into your checked luggage! Bringing this fancy tool has been great. You never think about the times you’re at home and need a scissors, knife, or even a bottle opener/corkscrew. This tool was my mom’s recommendation, and I have already put it to use even just opening packaging for new items I purchased here.

    My photos from home! as well as some items on these lists :)
    My photos from home! as well as some items on these lists 🙂
  4. Pictures from Home: One of my first purchases at the school organized IKEA  trip was a corkboard. The £3 purchase was great for putting up a few pictures I brought from home, as well as important paperwork I needed for the week. Having already printed pictures, I stuck them on the top of the board, and made my empty room feel much homier. Plus it was a simple, inexpensive project!
  5. Super Glue: Really! After running around the airport my first day and doing walking tours of campus, journeys into the city center, and just exploring in general, I put a lot of wear into one of the pairs of boots I bought. So much so that one of the heals started to come off the boot! Instead of having to go without, however, I simply super glued the heel back on. Presto! Good as new. Again, make sure this is in your checked luggage, but it really can be a great quick fix instead of spending time and money on replacement items.

    Ready for the rain!
    Ready for the rain!

    6. Rain Coat/Rain Boots: Here they call them your Waterproof and your Wellies, and they are essentials anywhere in the UK. It can rain at any time, can come at your any and every direction, and can take you completely by surprise. Bringing these items with me makes for more pleasant days, rain or shine.

      7. Reusable Grocery Bags: In the UK, and most of Europe I believe, when going to any shop, bags will cost you. They are only about 7 cents, but that adds up over time. I was very happy that I happened to throw a few of these into my luggage. They fold up really well and have come in handy wherever I go. They are lightweight and many conveniently fold up, so I recommend adding these to your packing list.

And what I should have brought…

  1. Utensils: Again, this one really depends on the type of living arrangement you have abroad, but hunting down a fork and spoon the first day was a dumb inconvenience that I could have solved by just throwing some plastic wear in my bag.  Even if you just snag the pack they give you on the plane (if you have a flight that provides food) you will thank yourself later when you are trying to cook dinner and realize you may need utensils to eat it.
  2. Sharpie: I brought pens and pencils with me, but the pouch of markers I had originally thought about bringing didn’t make the cut. From labeling food and kitchen tools to writing on my pub crawl shirt, there have been many occasions a little permanent marker could have been handy.
  3. Water bottle: Another thing that I had intended to pack and decided against. Being in a more humid environment, I forget to drink as much water as I do in Denver, and that has resulted in some minor dehydration. Drinking fountains are not as readily available as on DU’s campus, so bringing something that made it easier to bring water with me would have been helpful.
  4. School Supplies: I was not focused on the school aspect of things when I packed, and when I started to get prepared for classes I realized I didn’t have notebooks, or post-its, or binder clips. Again, I don’t recommend packing a full backpack of school supplies, but if you like to highlight notes or use binder clips to organize notebooks, consider putting a few in a zip lock and tucking them in your carry on.
  5. Tupperware: Versatile kitchenware that I can think of a million uses for now… Packing electronics in it to keep them from getting wet, saving left overs, cooking with, eating food from, storage, drawer/shelf organization, lunch box, change holder, jewelry box…needless to say I purchased some when I got here.
  6. More adapters: I didn’t realize that the UK had different outlets than the rest of Europe, and so the adapter I brought doesn’t work here…but the converter I brought does. This just makes for a bit of an annoyance/strategy when it comes to charging electronics throughout the day, I usually have to rotate them through a schedule in order to get things powered. I recommend 2-3 total adapters, just to make life easier.
  7. A Budget: I battled with this idea before I left, feeling like it would be too hard to judge costs before I got here and so I didn’t want to really limit my first week’s purchasing power. I was wrong. I think for me having more of an idea of what I would have liked to spend for “start up” costs would have been helpful, so I wasn’t blindly strolling through IKEA with no idea how much money I could put towards purchasing house necessities. In hindsight I wish I would have created even estimated figures to help me steer my spending from the beginning. I now have made a monthly budget, which I update nightly from the days purchases as a way to really maintain a spending limit and minimum. I hate spending money, so I had to set a minimum to make sure I was going out and eating or drinking at local places, rather than being too conservative, and passing on things I would regret later.

These items may not help everyone, but after a month here, this is my list of my month’s hindsight as well as some surprising forethought. Ultimately, what you bring and what you forget usually ends up adding to the stories you have and memories you make, forgetting something at home usually isn’t the end of the world!

– Jessie GG, DUSA Blogger