I can’t believe it was a year ago that I was grabbing a last pint in the pub with my friends, saying goodbye to Dublin. A friend of mine described traveling as leaving a piece of your heart behind in a foreign land, always being connected to places and people by having spent time among them. I do feel I left a bit of myself behind on the rolling green hills and boisterous pubs of Ireland. Still, a year later, every time I hear a jig or smell the rain I get a twinge of “home”sickness, longing to be back in old Erin’s green aisle.
So how do you deal with this “home”sickness? Here are five tips that helped me:
1. Allow yourself to be infected with the traveling bug:
After my time in Ireland I signed up to go abroad for another semester, this time in Israel. I spent the next six months traveling through Israel, Jordan, the UAE, and even Thailand! After spending a semester in Ireland I was filled with a desire to continue to travel to new lands, eat exotic foods, and learn about foreign cultures. My new found sense of adventure led me to lead a “lamah lo” (Hebrew for “Why not?”) lifestyle; cliff jumping in Thailand, joining friends in the West Bank, and doing the “couch surfing” program in Jerusalem.
2. Let your friends in on how important your experience was to you:
Lets face it, when you return from study abroad it is all you are going to want to talk about. I proudly wore my Ireland rugby jacket everywhere and almost every sentence out of my mouth started with “In Ireland we…” Although this can quickly annoy your friends, it is important to let them know how much your time abroad meant to you. Let them in by showing them pictures, taking them to a local joint that serves food and drink from your abroad location, or play them some of the music you listened to!
3. Rediscover how awesome your home base is:
Upon returning home I was hit with the realization: “I won’t be traveling around a foreign country every weekend.” As spoiled as it seems, this thought made the idea of being in the U.S. incredibly dull. That is until I remembered all the interesting places you can see right in the U.S. of A! I traveled around the East Coast and made an extra effort to visit events and museums around my school in Washington D.C. By remembering all of the fun things to do at home, you’ll miss the excitement of being abroad less.
4. Use your new perspectives for good:
Being abroad, especially studying peace and conflict like I did, really teaches you a new world outlook. I viewed participants in conflict, foreigners, Americans, and myself in a totally different way than I had before. I made sure to utilize my new viewpoints when having discussions with people in Israel, at home, and in class. I even got an internship at an organization trying to change the tone in discussions of conflict in the Middle East. While having these different perspectives can sometimes feel lonely, by sharing them, you are bringing others into your unique framework and allowing for more nuanced and diverse discussions.
5. Stay connected with your time abroad:
While you can bring your friends and family in on your time abroad and discuss your new perspective with everyone around you, no one will truly understand your experience like those who went through it with you. Reach out to the friends you made abroad and keep in contact with your professors. By going over fun tales you will be able to feel like you are back abroad, an escape you’ll need every once and awhile, especially during the height of your “home”sickness.
Although leaving a piece of your heart somewhere can at times be painful, I don’t think you’ll ever regret it. Through study abroad I became a more independent, adventurous person and my new unique perspective has helped me out in class, at work, and in adding color to talks with my friends. They say it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Well, Ireland, I certainly loved you, and boy was it grand!