Most of us set out on our study abroad journeys expecting to leave behind all the worries and stress we face while in college and instead have boundless amounts of fun. Thus, the mere thought that the mid-semester blues that haunts our years in university manages to weasel itself into our suitcases, ready to reveal itself at the opportune time, seems unfathomable. Until its nearly November and the thrill of new things has worn off, the desire for comfort and familiarity grows each day, and it seems harder to convince oneself to get out of bed each morning. The reality is that whether a few cities, states, countries, or continents away the desire to be somewhere else, doing anything else is a part of being human. I have been having an amazing time and when I think about it, home seems mundane and dreadful. However, I recognize that I miss aspects of home such as cooking for myself, driving the car, playing with my siblings, and my mom’s cooking.
After a solid week of wallowing, I decided I needed these mid-semester blues to disappear so that I could properly enjoy the rest of the semester. The process turned out to be simple and only took some reflection and proactive thinking.
First, I chatted with a friend in my program, acknowledging the home-sickness or “blues” that I was feeling and found out that she was having similar feelings. This made me feel sane and provided validation to these emotions.
Second, I created a list of all the things I missed about home. I noticed that some of the list contained things that I miss every year when the holidays are approaching and some of it was related to life on campus.
Third, I determined what on my list could be adapted to my current living situation. The goal was to make Santiago feel as much like home as possible.
Fourth, I acknowledged the aspects of living in Santiago that were unique, amazing, and fleeting. This returned some of the excitement I felt when I first started studying abroad and I began planning trips and visits again.
Fifth, I actively began the integration process. This included joining a gym near my home, staying caught up on my weekly TV shows, buying kale to add to meals, and taking my hair out of the twists requiring me to do my natural hair.
These changes have made all the difference. Recreating activities from home have made Santiago feel like home. Some days I now have to look outside my window and see the mountains to remember that I’m in Santiago, Chile and not my New York City dorm. I have a routine that emulates the one I have in college, except I add the weekend ventures to different parts of Chile, that make the weeks fulfilling and exhilarating. I can see myself living here for real one day.