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Small Victories Abroad: Overcoming Homesickness

Week four abroad and the dreaded sickness has hit me. It strikes when the new becomes the normal; a peculiar situation of a foreign land becoming "home" in a way. Abroad, it's more complicated when the normal isn’t exactly like home and talking to friends and family can be delayed by a few hours. This is the part of travel often forgotten.
 I finally ate my first crêpe in France. Nutella!

Here's a quick example. My Instagram portrays all of my amazing experiences but, like any social media, many parts of my days are left out. I posted this picture of my first crêpe after I had five hours of class and homework and then later had to cook dinner for myself. My point, life abroad is normal in some aspects. Sure, there’s a lot that isn’t normal but when you eliminate the location, language, and pink toilet paper, living abroad is still living. And, for me, this is when I let homesickness swoop in.

After spending the first few weeks learning about the city, eating new cuisine, and shopping it was easy to fall into the habits of daily living. In the United States, I go to school 400 miles from home and I spent 7 weeks of my summer abroad, so I thought I knew all the ins and outs of homesickness but it still has affected me. My homesickness experience isn’t too bad. It’s more that I’m coming off the high of living in France and falling into the lulls of just living.

 The famous Lisbon trams

So how did I get rid of the one month blues? Simply put, I got out of the apartment that I had been trapping myself in! I became a typical college student; laying around and watching Netflix. I began to fight homesickness by taking a book and walking down the street to the local park. It was relaxing to lay in the grass for an hour and cost nothing! Another way was to get out of town for a few days. When the weekend rolled around, my roommate and I got out of Aix and headed to Lisbon, Portugal. It was a much needed weekend away. Our trip gave me time to appreciate a new place but then appreciate the comforts I have found in my new home city of Aix-en-Provence when we returned. (There's nothing like sleeping in a familiar bed.)
 A panorama of all of Lisbon

Homesickness can causes the sufferer to feel some form of anxiety, sadness and obsessive preoccupation with thoughts of home. It's really easy to obsess over how normal home feels compared to your new home abroad. For me, during grocery shopping and when using public transportation, I find myself wishing communication was simpler. It's also pretty easy to wish that friends and family members could be in France with me. Now that I'm starting week five, I'm focusing on eliminating all my obsessions with the familiar and home while also getting out to see my own city more.

Knowing that homesickness is normal and simply an emotion has helped me overcome any sadness I do have. Don't get me wrong, living abroad is AMAZING! I really am having the time of my life, but here are just some struggles that come along with each amazing experience. It's normal to miss home, but I refuse to let that keep me from experiencing the new!

Featured Photo Credit: Erin Oppenheim (@erinoppenheim)

Sophia Hendrix is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a sophomore at Ohio University.

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