I'm what you'd call a 'homebody'--I like being at home. I find comfort in knowing places intimately, in staking a claim to a space that is entirely my own, where I feel safe. I revel in the routines that give structure to the day; I like predictability. This isn't to say that I don't like to get out and do things, but home is where I can recharge my metaphorical batteries, and it is the only place where I can be nothing but myself.
Needless to say, being nearly 7000 kilometers and an ocean away from my home has required a lot of adjusting, not the least of which is simply planning my days. I don't have a concrete knowledge of Vienna like I do my hometown--I don't know exactly how long it will take me to get from one area of the city to another, nor exactly how to get there. As someone slightly obsessed with time, this means I don't quite know when to wake up or when to leave my dorm, and I hate being late, and hate being early just as much. I used to loathe the monotony of driving the same route at the same time every day at home, but I realize now that I really am a creature of habit--I just haven't figured out if that is a bad thing.
But daily adjustments, as stressful as they can be, are nothing compared to how much I miss my family. They are closer to me than anyone, and are the only people I know I am going to see and talk to every day. You might have gathered that I am something of a loner, which is true, but it is still difficult to go without meaningful conversations with people who support me. I'll admit that I have been pretty lonely here, enough to consider withdrawing from the program. But my desire to experience living away from my family was partly why I chose to study abroad; I knew it would be difficult, but I have gotten this far, so I will continue. I am certain that I would regret leaving the program far more than I would regret staying.
Although I'm surely not the authority on how to overcome homesickness, I have found a few things helpful. Perhaps the most obvious is communicating with your missed ones. We study abroad students of the twenty-first century are incredibly lucky, in that we can press a few buttons on a phone or computer and see people living half a world away, in real time, for free. Texting and video calls may not be the same as being in someone's actual presence, but it's a reminder that the people at home are still there to talk to, and that you're not really alone--plus, they're probably missing you just as much as you miss them.
In addition, I have to suggest leaving your room and doing something, no matter how much you don't want to. Personally, whenever I am feeling lonely I want nothing more than to lie in my bed and watch Netflix for hours on end, although I know that doesn't exactly make me feel any better. You may dread it, but getting outside and going to a museum, a concert, or just a nearby cafe will take your mind off of your homesickness, as well as add to the list of experiences you've had.
As a final word of advice, whatever sadness or loneliness you might be feeling, remember to allow yourself to feel it. I think it is easy to get the idea that there is a "right" way to study abroad, which is to constantly have the time of your life. Frankly, that is unrealistic. It's okay to be sad, it's okay to want to go home, it's okay to question your choice. What's not okay is to beat yourself up for feeling less-than-euphoric. You are human, and your emotions are valid. So, cry if you want to. Take a nap if that helps, or a shower. Then, try your hardest to keep going; I'm willing to bet that you can.
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<p>Kelsie is a junior at Skidmore College, double majoring English and music. Her academic interests include creative nonfiction, piano performance, German language, and feminist theory. When she isn't in class or at the library, Kelsie spends her time playing piano, writing personal essays, knitting, or just curling up with a good book and a few cats. While studying in Vienna, Kelsie hopes to improve her German and piano skills, as well as immerse herself in Viennese culture.</p>