This is the fifth in an ongoing contributor series by Stephanie Brown. You can read the first part here. Check back next issue for the next chapter of The Long Commute.
As a follow up to the culture shock I seem to have conquered, another aspect of the long commute has emerged: homesickness. It’s like they’re teammates in a relay race; just when culture shock is finished, it hands off the baton to homesickness.
I honestly believed that I wouldn’t get homesick. Then I spent two days in bed staring at the ceiling and repeating, “I hate this place.” A slight exaggeration, but you get the point.
For me, homesickness felt like being back in grade school when I felt alone, misunderstood, and awkward. When it hit, I suddenly felt completely alone and removed from all that was familiar. I felt misunderstood because no one else appeared to be going through it, and awkward because I just couldn’t get the hang of living in this country. During the first month I was still planning trips, eating and drinking everything that seemed edible, and meeting new people. Then, month two rolled around and I realized there were papers due, developing a lucky routine that involved a particular Starbucks on the left side of the street. In between washing my sheets for the first time and receiving my first letter from home, I realized this was my home right now. It was terrifying. I had never experienced homesickness before, but I am glad I did; it was an awful feeling, but I realized how much I loved the place I was missing.
Even the most stoic student will get homesick if you’re gone anywhere from half to a full year. Prepare to miss home and have a few bad days. Accept the homesickness.
What to do? That acceptance is the first step. After that there is treatment. For me, the best treatment was to keep busy and find unique things that were great in my new country that don’t exist at home. I focused on making new friends and taking epic pictures. The more I looked at it and thought about all the positive and cool things I’d done, the better time I had while I did even more amazing things.
Homesickness is a part of travel. Unfortunately it comes with the territory—it’s in our nature to compare things to each other. So when things went wrong, even Nanaimo seemed way better than it did before. But it’s just another part of the experience—one that passes.