In another article, a few weeks ago now, I talked about the phases I was experiencing here in the USA as an International Student. Indeed, first, I experienced a honeymoon, then discernment, and finally, conscience. In this last phase I was in at the time, I was talking about the fact that I still liked it here, but that I realized that I do not belong here, because I do not feel 100 percent connected to the culture.
Well, there is more now. At the end of my article, I was asking myself if there would be more phases, and I am now right in the middle of a new one. Which is commonly called homesickness.
Actually, I have never felt so bad since the moment I came here, and I do not know what to do : It has been two weeks now that a very bad feeling has been growing inside of me. I am trying to fight it: I have a social life here, I have friends. I can still listen to French music and call my loved ones when I miss them. But still, I experience homesickness, and it’s killing me!
For all of you who want to live abroad, I can assure you that this moment will come, at one moment or another. It can be long or short, it can be at the beginning of your stay, or in the middle of it.
To be honest, I already lived abroad, so I knew it would eventually happen again here. But I figured, as living in the USA was my childhood dream, that I would maybe be spared. I was wrong: it is actually the worst homesickness I ever experienced, out of the three expatriations I’ve done.
Well, now, let’s analyze how you can know you are experiencing homesickness. Here are the symptoms that you may experience:
- You don’t want to talk. But you could use a million hugs.
Yes, because it’s hard to talk when you’re feeling down. Yet, physical empathy from friendly individuals can really help. Sometimes, no words are needed!
- You’re tired all the time.
You have to talk in a different language. Every. Single. Minute. There is no escape and there is no break. Sometimes, I just want to talk in French to my friends here, hoping that they will understand (weird, I know). Furthermore, it is also super exhausting to adapt yourself to the culture at all times.
- You LITERALLY are sick.
Putting aside the multiple food poisonings I’ve experienced here (the food is definitely not the same!), as well as the flu and the colds (funky), I actually feel sick. I have horrible migraines and insomnia very often. Which definitely does not help with point 2), I can tell you.
- You miss the little details that you would never have thought you would actually miss.
I have so many examples for this one. I miss the taste of tomatoes. I miss being super cold. I miss the freezing fog in the morning. I miss the smell of the rain on the cement. I miss the “ding” of the tram stops in my hometown. I miss smoking in outdoor cafés. I miss closing my wooden shutters…. And the list is long, so I will just stop there.
- You feel like you can never be 100 percent yourself.
Because it’s scary. It feels like no one would fully understand, or would fully accept you. The culture is different. You do not know the people well enough to be that confident. And it just feels uncomfortable to advertise that true self that does not belong here. For instance, I would probably be called a snobby French if I would be 100 percent myself.
So, right now I really have to work on my body health and motivation. It is quite tough, but I am doing my best.
The most important things in this kind of situation is to talk to your loved ones back home, to do the things you love, to do not be scared of following your home country’s routines, and to intend yo go outside as often as possible.
It will eventually pass, trust me.
It always passes.
Above all, I still love being here and having the opportunity to live the American Life! And that is the most important, because homesickness always fades eventually.
In the meantime, thank you for reading! Let’s catch up next week for more French insights.
Floriane Simondet is a graduate exchange student from France, majoring in business administration.