"But do you know anybody going?" they'd ask.
But that's part of the adventure. The only problem is that sometimes you can't help but feel completely out of your element - and get enveloped by homesickness.
There are ways to combat this! Especially when you're somewhere as magical as the French Riviera.
Don't call home too much. I find that when I talk to my family and friends about what's going on at home, I get too sucked in to their lives and forget about everything I have going on here. I would talk to my family maybe once a week, just to tell them about all the new things I've done this week. This way I focus on the positive aspects of being here even when I connect back home.
Personalize your living space. Home should be your sanctuary. Even if it's only for a few months. When you are at your place, you should feel comfortable and safe. We decorate our dorm rooms to make them feel more like ours and it's just as easy to do that here.
Don't spend too much time at home. We tend to feel more depressed when we're stuck inside watching T.V. or lounging about. If you're not doing anything, you have time to think about what you could be doing elsewhere. Keep yourself busy. On the French Riviera, the weather is beautiful almost every day and even when it's not, the views still are. I go for walks with my camera whenever I have nothing to do. The Cap d'Antibes is my favorite.
Learn the language. It can feel awfully alienating when you're unable to communicate. Trying to learn the language - in my case French - keeps me busy and makes going out easier. I feel much more comfortable leaving the house and running errands or exploring when I have basic communicative skills. Sitting at a cafe for hours and ordering coffees is better than sitting at home in silence.
Join a school organization. SKEMA has so many student organizations that even as exchange students, we are eligible to join. They also have an athletics class where you can learn dance, sailing, or do workout classes like boot camp. It's another way to keep busy and make friends so you don't feel like you're missing out on the activities you'd do at your home university.
Talk to your CEA coordinator. Kristin always told us if we ever felt homesick, to just come by the office. She was always available to us and very knowledgeable. If anyone would know of a way to make you feel better, it is her. And any CEA coordinator has had many rounds of students with the same problems. They're our guides.
Homesickness is just one of the symptoms of culture shock. But don't let the unfamiliarity become a bad thing - turn it into something positive. If you don't know the area, get to know it. It's supposed to be fun and exciting. Enjoy it while you can!
Victoria Zawitkowski is the Fall 2013 CEA MOJO for the French Riviera. She is currently a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University.
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