On March 17, I went with IES Abroad Salamanca on a fantastic trip to Portugal. The trip was included in the program cost, so everyone was extremely excited to go. We left Salamanca bright and early and made our way by bus to the city of Coimbra. This city houses the oldest university in Portugal like Salamanca does in Spain. The city was absolutely beautiful. There were tons of windy roads and fun shops. The university itself housed many impressive buildings, including a breathtaking library that was used in filming Beauty and the Beast (2017).
Our next stops included Lisbon (Lisboa), the Portuguese capital, Cascais, a lovely beach town outside of Lisbon, and Fatima, a catholic religious site that draws in pilgrims from all over the world. I was very excited for this next leg of the trip, as I knew all of these places quite well. I traveled through Portugal for a month with my family and cousins in 2019, and we visited all of these places during our adventures. I remember loving them so much so I was excited to share this experience with my friends. My family is Portuguese and we have always celebrated the Portuguese “festas” in San Diego with the community there. It was fun to see my culture in action in Portugal, as that month with my family was without a doubt one of the best times of my life.
As we moved throughout the Portuguese capital, I was happy to see all of the familiar sites once more, feeling a rush of deja vu with every step. Every plate of bacalhau (cod) and every sip of maracujá (passion fruit) juice reminded me of home and of my family. I suddenly began to feel out of touch. I thought at first that I was just dehydrated, but I could not shake the feeling I was experiencing even after some water and rest. I wanted to go home.
I started laughing to myself. How could I be feeling this way while walking in the beautiful streets of Lisbon? I kept telling myself that I should soak up this experience and live here and now, knowing that I would see my family in Spain for Spring Break soon. I reassured myself with everything they tell you about traveling and studying abroad, but I could not snap out of it. Every song I heard put me back to that time with my family. Every pastéis de nata made me want to go home, and I simply could not understand why.
This was my first battle with a crippling homesickness while being abroad. I am telling this story to validate the experiences that others may have had. Studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime experience, but even while having the time of your life, homesickness can creep up on you. It's a frustrating feeling, because you want to be feeling excited and happy while seeing the world and having all of these new experiences with friends.
In the end, I still was able to enjoy my weekend in Portugal with IES Abroad and am so thankful for the trip and the opportunity to see Portugal again. I wish I could have enjoyed it more while being there, but battles with homesickness are bound to happen, and that is okay. It is perfectly natural to miss something that you love. If you or anyone you know experiences homesickness while studying abroad, know that it is a normal thing to feel, even while walking in the breathtaking streets of Lisbon.
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Kai da Luz
My name is Kai da Luz and I am a current sophomore at Villanova University who is studying in Salamanca. I love to play volleyball and am a major foodie.