Wanting to Go Home Doesn’t Mean You’re Doing Your Time Abroad Wrong
When I was preparing to study abroad in Southern Germany for a year I knew there was only so much I could do to really be ready, and that a lot would come as I walked through this new season of life that I was about to embark on. I knew about culture shock and a lot of people said that homesickness was a thing. But honestly, I didn’t think I would ever get to the point where I missed home that much. I knew my time abroad was just a season, it was temporary, and I had lived on my own since I was 18 so independence wasn’t something new for me.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was viewing homesickness from the wrong angle. Homesickness wasn’t going to be combated with my independence, instead, it was a byproduct of now belonging to 2 different worlds.
When you’re living in a new country a shift happens. You begin to create a new normal, you establish yourself in a new routine, with new friends and a new environment. But in creating this new norm you have now created for yourself a paradox of belonging. As much as you belong to the life that you put on hold back home, you now belong to a life abroad. A life that is changing and shaping you in ways that you can’t fully understand while you are in the midst of it all.
So why this overwhelming desire to go home? Why, if you are establishing a home and routine abroad is there this struggle? This overwhelming pull to be at home at your favorite coffee shop with your friends? After all, this time abroad is just temporary isn’t it? Life back home is just on pause, so shouldn’t I be focused on my short time here?
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, I shouldn’t want to go home! What is wrong with me?!?!
I have been rolling these questions over and over in my head trying to find some answer, and then it dawned on me. It’s the effect of the paradox. As your global experiences and relationships expand your world begins to grow beyond the borders of your normal.
Missing home is the growing pains of border change.
Living abroad brings with it a fear of being left behind by the people you love back home. You are changing and growing as a person and they aren’t here to experience it with you… This fear brings to the forefront of the mind the question, “what kind of peg is this experience molding me into?”, and “will I still fit into the same hole when I go back home?”.
This desire to go home in the middle of your studies abroad isn’t because there is something wrong with you, but it is a call of desperation in the midst of so much change. It’s the subconscious idea that if you can go home now everyone would see the changes in you thus far and you would have a better chance of still being the same shaped peg, or at least allow friends and family time to adjust to the new you. This desire to go home is a manifestation of the desire to bring your friends and family along with you on this journey that is changing you, growing you, and shaping you into a different person.
It is important to recognize this, to recognize the truth that we won’t be the same person when we go home, and that a transition will take place as we attempt to make “home” our new normal and help our family and friends adjust to our new selves. We will probably have the desire to return to our homes that we made while abroad, for me this is my German home. But just like the time it took to be shaped and molded by our new homes abroad when we first arrived, we too will find our new design when we return home.
Wanting to go home doesn’t mean that you are doing your time abroad wrong, it means that you are being greatly shaped by it.