There have been many nights when I have stayed awake underneath a heavy blanket of sadness while studying abroad. These nights turned into tired mornings when I did not even want to head into town for lunch. It became a cycle of loneliness; I was too tired to reach out to people around me, then I descended into bouts of sadness and loneliness because I didn’t have anyone to talk to, which only perpetuated my exhaustion. Once I started this cycle, it was hard to escape.
When I first came to France, I never imagined that I would be lonely or sad. I knew I would be homesick, but I could never really imagine the intensity of missing or the cycles of loneliness that homesickness could bring. Homesickness and loneliness, I found, make really good friends, and it’s hard to experience one without the other.
When I first came to France, I knew I would miss home, but I would be surrounded by so many people, new opportunities, delicious food, and awe-inspiring places to discover that I would forget a little bit about home. I did for a while until I browsed Instagram and saw picture after picture of my friends back home. I missed them, I missed the sunlight from my bedroom, I missed my mom’s cooking, I missed not having to think about worrying if I said “Merci” correctly.
The other day, I decided to leave my room. I had spent two days without really doing anything because I was too tired of traveling— what a thought. The historic buildings of all of the cities I had traveled to over the months had begun to blend together. I missed the comfort of home and not having to pack little zip-up bags of toiletries.
I went for a walk and decided to make a game of it by looking for fountains (Aix is known for its many fountains). I missed my friends, but I needed to get out of my shell, out of my comfort zone, to break the cycle of homesickness and loneliness.
That day, I learned that it takes about 21 days to break a habit. I have a little under 21 days left in France. I am currently breaking old habits and breaking old cycles. I keep in contact with my family and friends, but I give myself breaks from social media if homesickness overwhelms me. I have begun to reach out to friends in France and make the most out of every second.
Loneliness and homesickness are close friends, but now that I am acquainted with them abroad, I know they’re not the only friends I can have. I have everyone in my program, all of the wonderful people in my classes, and best of all, I have myself.
Andrea Vazquez is the Fall 2018 CEA MOJO Blogger in Aix-en-Provence, France, and is currently studying at Soka University of America.