In this week's post, Maya addresses a common concern about studying abroad: homesickness! Read more for her tips on coping with homesickness and why you shouldn't let that scare you away from studying abroad!
So it has been about a month since my arrival to Barcelona, Spain and while this has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, homesickness is inevitable. Being so far away in a country with a new language, new foods, and new culture will definitely cause someone to start missing home. You would think homesickness comes from just being in such a different place but it can hit at the most random times.
My first couple weeks in Spain were all exciting and fun so I really didn’t have time to be homesick. For some of my roommates, they immediately felt it upon arrival. I however, felt it recently after one semi bad day. My class schedule differs from the rest of my house so I have to take the metro alone to class, one day I could not figure out how to get out of the metro station (LOL) because of how big and confusing the Catalunya station is. It has many exits and many connections to other transportation so it takes a few trips to figure out your way to the exit. This immediately made me miss how simple the MBTA stations are for me to navigate at home since I have lived there all my life.
Me in front of the Hospital Sant Pau which I ran into while wandering Barcelona!
I also could not find peanut butter. AT. ANY. GROCERY. STORES. IN. THE. CITY. I checked at least five and apparently it is not as popular in Europe as it is back home. I honestly never thought I would miss something as simple as peanut butter but being away from home really highlights even the little differences and you begin to miss those tiny signs of comfort.
That said, if you are thinking of studying abroad (which is most likely why you’re reading this) DON’T WORRY. Fear of homesickness should not keep you from allowing yourself to participate in such an amazing experience! Some ways I have been able to cope with this are actually super simple, and I wanted to share a few with you:
1) Coordinate your chats with people from home ahead of time.
If you plan on studying somewhere with a large time difference like me, coordinating times when you and people at home would be free to talk helps a lot. I can’t even count how many times when I first arrived I accidentally called people at home at times as late as 4 am in Boston, and vice versa! But this is a simple fix and while you most likely will not be able to talk to them as much as if you were home, apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat can keep you in touch with home as if you were there.
2) Explore your new city on your own.
Part of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter, another place I decided to explore alone to become more acquainted with the city!
Another tip I would give is to explore your city alone at some point! During the day obviously so that you’re safe, but something that made me feel more comfortable was roaming the town my apartment is located, and going into the city alone so I could get comfortable traveling as if I were back at home. It sounds scary at first, trust me I know. But once you take that leap and just do it you will be so proud of yourself and feel so much more comfortable for the rest of your stay!
Hospital Sant Pau again!
3) Find a go-to specialty store that carries US snacks and brands.
Some American treats I found! Frosted Flakes (which are called Frosties here for some reason... Anything with the name Frosted Flakes tastes NOTHING like the original) and my peanut butter!
Lastly, try to find a store that specializes in American snacks and products, while the point of studying abroad is to try new things and live like the locals, having a few things to remind you of home like your favorite breakfast cereal or cookies, this can give you that little bit of comfort to help combat homesickness when it hits! In Barcelona, there is a huge mall called El Corte Ingles where you can find almost anything you can think of, and on the bottom floor they have Spanish groceries and an American food section with both American brands and Spanish brands of American food specialties. This is where I found my peanut butter!
Homesickness can be super hard, but it is all part of the experience and honestly makes you feel more independent and helps you grow. I hope my tips help you on your future experiences abroad!
Maya Crawford is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Business Administration major at University of Massachusetts Lowell, she is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester.
Maya's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.