January Blues: Year Abroad Edition
For most people on a year abroad, the scariest thought is leaving your loved ones at the airport on your first flight out to your new home. After that initial hurdle and the obligatory ‘settling in period’, we all expected it to get easier every day. Sadly, most year abroad students (myself included) have recently come to realise that it’s actually harder to leave home the second time than it was back at the start of the academic year.
The last week or so of my Christmas hols was spent with a knot in my stomach. I had experienced family life again and been wrapped up in a comfort blanket of my favourite foods, places and people. My looming flight was tugging on that blanket. On Sunday it was ripped off completely, and I was forced to get back on a plane and return to Rome.
The whole of Christmas I had been telling my friends and family everything I loved about Italy. I had complained about English coffee, English pizza and English ice-cream, just like every irritating year abroad student does. So, if I missed all the Italian equivalents so much, why did it feel so bad to come back?
1) 1) I knew what homesickness felt like
This is a biggie. A lot of university students experience homesickness, but homesickness abroad is something else altogether. It feels like home is on another planet. Once you’ve experienced it in first term, it’s natural to dread the feeling again, and I think this is one of the main factors in causing the blues I’ve returned with.
2) 2) I knew I would be away for longer
As it stands, I won’t be seeing England again until May, when I come back for a few days for my Dad’s wedding (exciting times!). Although it’s a source of comfort to me that I have my flights for that booked, it is four months away. Spending three months away from home last term was the longest stretch I have experienced, and although I love Rome, it began to take its toll at the end. The thought of four months away is therefore really daunting!
3) 3) I knew I had exams to come back to
Until the end of February I have no classes, just exams. This was a source of distinct worry for me over Christmas, as the revision seemed too much and it was hard to know what to revise for since the exams here are oral, and therefore so so different! I did my first two on Tuesday, and they were much better than I’d expected, so that has given me the confidence for the rest, but knowing I still have a month left of solitary work is very off-putting.
4) 4) I had become settled
After a month at home it’s only natural that I became settled back into the environment, which made it ever harder when I had to leave it again. Sadly, this is a side-effect of uni life in general; as soon as we get settled in one place, it seems like we’re moving on again!
So yes, the January blues has hit particularly hard this year. I feel silly for missing home so soon, but all my year abroad friends have said they had the same thing and it took them around a week to settle in again. It’s important to find ways to combat this feeling. I’ve already been to a museum, had a lovely dinner by the Pantheon (one of my favourite spots in the city) and planned a trip to Verona. I also have plenty of books to read in the evenings which always makes me feel better, so I’m sure I (and everyone else experiencing this feeling of return-abroad blues) will be feeling back to normal in no time!