When I first started my study abroad journey, one of my biggest fears was homesickness.
I’ve never traveled outside of the country, and can count on one hand how many times I’ve traveled without my family. My family does everything together, from taking road trips to watching shows together (our current show is Blue Bloods!) to family leftover dinner nights. I even decided to move back home the last couple of weeks before departure in order to spend more time with my family.
Naturally, I worry about how my connection to home will change once I go abroad. In a lot of ways, leaving home for Spain reminds me of leaving home for college, except that my college was only 50 miles away from home! Of course I want to take advantage of every opportunity abroad and make the most of the experience, but I also know that as a first-gen student, this is a journey that will mean as much to me as it does to my family.
FaceTime and calls are great for staying in contact with loved ones, but I wanted to find ways to integrate home and my family into this amazing life experience. And since I can’t physically take my family with me, here is a list of 4 essentials I have packed to make home seem a little bit less far away:
This may seem like an obvious first “essential”, but in the midst of all my packing frenzy, I almost forgot to include pictures!
During the pandemic, I have moved many times (6 to be exact!) so I really learned what I could and couldn’t live without. Pictures were definitely one thing I couldn’t live without.
In every room I moved to, I took a frame with photo booth pictures of my family. I love these pictures because they show how full of life and how happy I am to be with my family. I also make sure to keep pictures of my baby niece and nephew, who I’m sure will be 100x bigger once I return! Finally, I always travel with a stack of small pictures of my favorite art, which I hung in every room I lived in and looked at every day while I got ready and before I went to bed.
Even though those pictures are not of people that I love, they remind me of home and of all the laughter, friends, and experiences I have had. Don’t forget pictures of your pets either!
2. Small Items that Scream “YOU!”
This is definitely a more challenging item or two to think about. Luggage space is not infinite, so I had to get creative with which things I would choose to take. Here’s what I decided on, but it will be totally different depending on who you are and what items speak to you!
First, I decided to take a little dish (smaller than my palm) that I use to hold my rings when I take them off at night. The dish has a whale on it, which does happen to be my spirit animal and favorite animal! It’s a small item that I know will bring me joy every time I see it and will remind me of it sitting on my counter at home.
Second, I’m taking a reusable water bottle that one of my best friends gave me in high school. I don’t normally use it all the time, but with its quirky witch cat design and lived-in feel, I know it will make me feel closer to my friends back home and carries a little bit of my personality with it.
I don’t know if this applies to everyone or if I’m just crazy, but I tend to remember people and places by scent! This might seem a little difficult to “pack” with you, but here’s how I’m planning to do it!
My sister and I like to keep aromatherapy diffusers in our rooms, and we each have our favorite scents. So when I smell citrus or peppermint, it instantly reminds me of her, no matter where I am. Similarly, the smell of frankincense and clove essential oils are my signature scents!
Putting one or two little bottles of essential oils in your carry-on or personal item couldn’t hurt, and might even remind you of home! (Pro tip: if you’re feeling nervous about the flight, try lavender and frankincense!)
Other options might include a little vial of your partner’s perfume/cologne or I’ve even heard of some people taking dryer sheets so their clothes smell like home!
4. Loved Ones’ Handwriting/Notes
This one is also pretty idiosyncratic and personal, but I have always been fascinated by handwriting and can always tell all of my friends’ and family’s apart. When I went to college, all of my friends and family from my hometown wrote notes of inspiration for me that I put up in my dorm and which kept me inspired throughout the school year. Luckily I still have those notes, so I’m planning to take a few with me to keep me motivated and remind me of them while abroad!
These shouldn’t take up a lot of room, it can be as easy as asking your family or friends to write a message for you on a post-it to remember them by and putting those in your wallet!
Basically, bring something—anything—that is meaningful to you and represents where you come from. It’s easy to feel uncentered and a little lost with such a big change, so it’s important to plan ahead and find ways to help you feel connected to home—even from thousands of miles away!
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<p>Hi, I'm Kat! I'm a junior at Scripps College and come from a small town called Beaumont in California (about halfway between L.A. and Palm Springs). I am a Linguistics and Spanish, Latin American, and Caribbean Literatures and Cultures dual major. I would describe myself as a Netflix junkie and culture enthusiast. I love to have movie nights with my friends, talk to people about their ancestry, check out museums, and cook Buzzfeed Tasty recipes!</p>