Even as someone who felt fully prepared for it, I was hit like a barrel of concrete falling directly into my gut.
No one talks about the ugly side of study abroad. And it’s a bit brutal, to tell you the truth.
This week has been a weird mixture of excitement and stress, making it a strange and difficult experience.
No one really went into depth about the tension that can happen when you’re trying to move into a new flat with new people in a new country, the pain of money being sucked out of your account for dishes and deposits and food and electricity. The brutal homesickness that happens when nothing seems to be working out and you’re going to go broke and you just want to be with your friends back at school again.
The worst part for me, at least, was that I definitely thought I had it all under control. I was prepared, I wasn’t going to get hit with culture shock or homesickness, I was so ready to get out of the States.
Sometimes it’s easier said than done. Because let me tell you, homesickness hits like a truck, especially when you’re not expecting it.
We started off our week in London with the infamous flat hunt. At our London Centre, we spend the first week looking for a place to live. It’s overwhelming. It’s awful. Thank god the worst is over. My flatmates and I eventually found a ridiculously good deal at a student living accommodation in East London. Definitely not the nicest place nor the shabbiest, so myself and my other artistically-inclined flat mates – with the help of Pinterest – are working to make it more like home.
We’ve had a wonderful time in London otherwise, though. The director of the London Centre took us all to our first football game, a Millwall match where I have never heard so many expletives shouted at a field in my life (and I have relatives with mouths like sailors and children who play American football…). At one point the crowd took up a chant of “you fat c***.” Including children. Different cultures are so interesting.
We got to see a performance at the Globe, which my Shakespeare nerd self was overly excited about. As a lover of all things theatre and especially Shakespeare, it was a mind-blowing opportunity. Crossing off things on the bucket list is a really cool experience, let me tell you.
We also hit up a tank party at the Camden Town Brewery in Northern London the night before we all moved into our flats, which was a wonderful time, even though beer is generally not my drink of choice.
But after all the dust has started to settle and the clock strikes midnight, my aggressive wanderlust has started to waver.
It’s a strange feeling to want to explore but also to have the tearing at your heart of missing home. Snapchats and Facebook posts from friends from Ithaca made me question why I even wanted to leave in the first place. Tearing up in the communal internet lab was definitely the icing on the cake as I FaceTimed my entire family all at once. Home isn’t here yet, and even if I’m not sure exactly where it is, it’s a place very far away from where I am. And that’s hard to accept. It’s also a difficult wave to ride.
Though I can drink a lot of alcohol, which definitely helps.
Right now, I’m just meditating and breathing and doing yoga and riding my waves and settling into a rhythm and exploring this experience I got myself into. With classes starting, dishes and food bought, almost all of us in the flat, phones and wi-fi working, I’m starting to be able to sit back a little and try and take deep breaths. It’s still very strange to see pictures of everyone back at Ithaca, and still a weird feeling to be somewhere so new and having to spend a lot of money, but I’m getting to a good place.
And I’m just very grateful I managed to shove Snuffles in my bag so when I need to cry, I have something from home to hold.