How To Battle Homesickness Abroad

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Hi lovies!

Happy Friday! I’m currently on my way to Salamanca for the weekend, but I wanted to share this blog post (side note: follow my Instagram or Twitter (both @wanderlustkait) for updates during my Salamanca trip! I always post pictures while I’m traveling!). So I wrote a post a few months ago about The Spain Struggle and cultural adaptation, so this is kind of Part II in the series. Now that I’ve had my fair share of culture adaptation and homesickness, I think I’ve finally figured out the key to beating it. I’m going to be completely honest when I say coming back to Spain after spending the holidays in the USA was harder than the first time I left. The travel itself was easier because I knew what to expect when I got here, but leaving my family, friends and Ohio was just a lot harder the second time around. Now I’ve been back for about a month and a half and while it might be that I have readjusted to the culture, I think there is one thing I’m doing a lot different than when I arrived in Spain in September that is making all the difference.

Instead of missing things about home, I am making Bilbao my home.

It’s as simple as that. Instead of missing everything about the USA, I am embracing more things about Spain. I also am beginning to realize that a lot of the things I was missing, I just needed to look a little harder for. For example, my little sister, Emily. It turns out she was living a few pisos down and I just wasn’t looking hard enough. JUST KIDDING. But little things like peanut butter, a yoga mat, a cafe that has to-go soy lattes, indulging in watching #TheBachelor, etc (so many #whitegirlproblems necessities). So if you’re abroad, lonely, homesick and reading this, here’s some simple instructions to get you started. First, leave you house. Go out and get something that reminds you of home. Anything. A book, music, a coffee, a candle, a food. Second, start building your own home in your current city. For me, investing in things that make me feel more at home, are actually turning Bilbao into more of a home for me. And lately, despite all the rain, Bilbao has been growing on me (I can’t believe I just said that!).

I think it’s important for people to remember that when you move abroad, you don’t have to lose yourself. I know all those pinterest quotes are like “LEAVE YOUR IDENTITY BEHIND AND JUST LOSE YOURSELF IN THE TREES AND GRASS OF EVERY CONTINENT AND BECOME ONE WITH THE WIND AND NEVER LOOK BACK” or something, but in all honestly, I think that’s far from the truth (And yes, I’ve probably pinned every single one of those quotes, in case you were wondering). I think the key to battling homesickness is bringing elements of home to you. And I’ve found, the more home I bring to me, the less I feel like I need it, and the more I can truly embrace living in Spain. 

**Note: A close second for the key to battling homesickness was giving someone a hug. Not even kidding. Hug it out. It helps. 

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Have you ever been homesick while being abroad (or just away from home)? What do you think helps battle homesickness the most? 

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It’s Okay.

I haven’t updated for awhile because I haven’t been motivated to write and it always takes me a few weeks of readjustment when I travel for a long period to/from Europe (it was like culture shock part 2 for me! . I could do travel recaps (I still need to do my WHOLE eurotrip, Madrid, and Paris the second time around), but I just haven’t been in the mood, as I feel like my mind has been somewhere else 90% of the time since I returned to Spain from the USA. I’ve always had a wandering mind….I day dream a lot and “zone out” all the time. Sometimes when I’m daydreaming, I get an fixated on idea, which quickly becomes a new goal and incorporated into my life. I remember last year, all I could think about was backpacking Europe and living in Spain. Before I entered my freshman year of college at Ohio State, I got the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Collaborative with 80 other incoming freshman. It was a great experience which really motivated me to get involved and make the most of my college experience prior to beginning. At the Leadership Collaborate, we did the Strengths Quest. I will never forget that one of my top 5 strengths was futuristic. 

But the more I think about it, I’m not sure futuristic is a strength. Yes, when I do things, I tend to see the “whole picture” and how it will effect the future, however it leads me to spending hours thinking about the future instead of living in the moment. It also leads me to question what I am doing. I don’t have a degree in education and don’t want to be a teacher (it’s a lot harder than it looks!). I think one thing that high school and college ingrained in me was a sense of being on a “timeline”. In college, when you are a freshman, you meet with your advisor and plan out your timeline of classes FOR THE REST OF YOUR COLLEGE CAREER. Knowing what I was doing always gave me a false sense of security. There was always the question of “what are you doing after you graduate?”, but other than that, for five years I always had a clear sense of what I was doing, why I was doing it, and what came next. Post grad life is different. It’s the first time in your life you aren’t all following that same path. You can’t compare yourself to what you see everyone else doing, because you all have different end goals. And you most definitely cannot put yourself on a timeline. If life was meant to be a rigid timeline, it would be called plan

If there’s one thing living in Spain thus far has taught me, it is that it’s okay. It’s okay to question what you are doing. It’s okay to not have everything figured out right now. And most importantly, it’s okay to live completely in the moment.

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What the hell am I doing?

Okay, so since September hit, the whole “I’m moving to Spain this month to teach English thing” got more real. It’s quickly become less of me daydreaming about my life in Spain, to more of me realizing that I will actually be on a plane, to Spain, at the end of the month. To be honest, I’m having mixed emotions about it. I have spurts of excitement, then waves of doubts go through my mind. I’ve actually gotten the hang of working full time and having a (still pretty college-like) post grad life since I graduated in May. The doubts I’m having are fueled by the fear of the unknown. This is possibly the craziest thing I will ever do in my life, and at 23, I still feel really young to be taking such a leap.

But when else in life do you get the chance to take such a leap? Never.

While moving to a foreign country is different than moving away from home to go to college, the emotions I am experiencing are very similar to the ones I experienced the few weeks before I left for college: everything you’ve been talking about and thinking about is finally happening, and all of the sudden you’re unsure you want it. But the difference between college and now is I’ve had that experience, and I know I want it. I learned a lot in college, but the most important lessons I learned were outside the classroom. The lessons I learned through each different experience, that no text book, class or professor could ever teach. With each new chapter of life comes new experiences and an opportunity to grow more as a person, which is why I know I want to move to Spain.

In the beginning college was a new, exciting adventure and after reflecting back to myself freshman year, I wish I could go back and experience everything over again. I wouldn’t change a thing, just relive those emotions. But now I’m realizing I have another chance to start a new adventure, and I couldn’t be more excited.

There is beauty in the uncertainty. There is beauty in having no expectations. There is beauty in adventure.

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What lead me to the Auxiliar de Conversacion Program in Spain

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Lately, I’ve had a huge internal struggle with if I should be doing this program. To be honest, most of my question is coming from the complete unsupportive and judgmental opinion of my parents. In the past few months, I’ve heard everything from me being selfish for doing this program to them saying they will never speak to me again if I do. While that is a hard pill to swallow, something is still telling me I have to go. Somehow, this program found me and if I don’t take this opportunity, I know I will regret it the rest of my life. It all began the day I decided I wasn’t going to apply to medical school. I remember crying on the phone to my dad, because I just was so confused. I walked into the union at my college campus, a half hour early for my student organization meeting. I decided to get on my computer and look at other post-grad options. The first thing I typed into the google search was “post grad travel options”. After spending only 30 minutes on google reading about people who got their TEFL certification and have been teaching abroad, I quickly decided that would be my next step. I began dreaming of teaching in Europe and having a life abroad after graduation. It was all I could think about….

The next day, I was at lunch with my friend and I excitedly told her that I had figured out what I wanted to do after graduation. I told her I was still looking in to ways to make it happen, but I wanted to move abroad. To my surprise, she didn’t think it was crazy and knew a friend who moved to Spain. She gave me his contact information and that is when I learned about the Auxiliar De Conversacion (North American Culture & Language Assistant Program) and the rest is history!

The tough part for me has been explaining to others that people change, dreams change and life doesn’t follow a direct path. All through college, it was about medical school. But when I finally let myself really think about post grad life, I realized there was a whole world out there, billions of people with different culture, perspectives and experiences to grow from and learn about! While I am not working an entry level job in the United States, or going to medical school, I believe I am making an educated decision in making myself a more cultured individual. Some may call it irresponsible, immature or foolish, but they can think what they want. Only the truly ignorant would not see the opportunities, self discovery and growth that this program has the potential to be. 

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Have you ever done something your family doesn’t approve of? Have you ever changed career paths?