By Shannon Mahon, Villanova University, USA
My study abroad experience is somewhat unique (at least by American standards) in that I am studying at University of Manchester for the entire academic year. Of my friends and peers that go abroad, nearly all of them will only be gone for one semester or a summer. With that unique experience comes a unique perspective-especially because I went home for a month for our winter break.
What I took away from being home is that you are allowed to not miss being abroad.
Nearly every friend and family member I saw while I was home asked me if I wanted to move to England, if I loved it that much. They asked me if I missed England and if I was excited to go back. I was troubled with what the questions implied, given how many people asked me. I almost felt pressured to say yes, I loved it so much that I’m going to uproot my life and head over as soon as this year is over. I thought I needed to say I missed it a ton and was practically running to the airport to head back.
I felt bad being sad about leaving again. I feel guilty crying in the airport as I write this because it wasn’t any easier saying goodbye the second time around. Social pressures and the feeling in my gut told me I should be jumping on the plane with a massive grin, because I should love studying abroad so much more than being home.
This isn’t to say that I hate England by any means-I have loved my experience so far and I am looking forward to the second half going back. However, I did not miss being in England while I was home. I enjoyed being home. I’d like to think that reflecting on my feelings and discovering that this was my mindset was a testament to my ability to ‘live in the moment’. Or if I didn’t have that ability before, it has developed upon my self-reflection and self-discovery.
In inevitably dealing with homesickness in the months to come upon returning to England I hope that I can hold on to this mindset of enjoying where I am knowing I’ll be somewhere else soon enough. I hope that readers looking for advice about going abroad can remember this too! Leaving the life you’ve become so comfortable in is scary and lonely at times, but the rewards outweigh the challenges in my opinion. And you can love your experience without wanting to do it again.
With all of that being said, it is also important to not let hard goodbyes or fear of leaving home ruin your outlook going in to your study abroad experience. I had very similar feelings of dread the first time I came over to England that I’m having now. I assumed that I was going to feel this lonely and upset and scared for the entire semester, and by the end of the week I already had some of the best friends and experiences of my life. What I’m trying to say is give it a chance, and be patient waiting for that chance to turn out well.
To try and sum up all of the different points I just worked through, let your experience be your own. Don’t feel pressured by others to feel something different from what you truly feel. Negative feelings are okay, and so are positive ones! Just as long as those feelings are yours.