Navigating Homesickness Abroad

Roma Sarathi headshot
Roma Sarathi
October 17, 2023

When I chose Spain as the place I would be studying abroad, I knew immediately that my months living there would be a little bit difficult for me. The language and the navigation of the city would be one thing, but my preconceived idea of the diversity in Spain was, well, not diverse. I knew about its proximity to Morocco and the intermixing of cultures within the city of Granada specifically, and while I was excited to see what that would look like, I was also thinking about how much I would miss the things that made me feel at home. Hearing Tamil, my parents' native language, eating the food that my family makes, and celebrating the holidays of my religion were all things I would have to give up on when I came to Spain. And when I got here and started to see some of the similarities between Spain and India, in buildings and in nature, the homesickness started to creep up on me.

I remember being on the phone with my mom and exclaiming, "So much of Spain is just like India," while I showed her around the bathroom in my host mom's house and the view from outside of my window. She smiled and agreed, very amused that I was making these connections immediately upon arrival. But the connections continued the more I talked to my host mom. She reminded me so much of my grandmother: her casual bluntness, her dedication to making sure my roommate and I are fed properly, and the way she showed her love through her cooking. The homesickness I was feeling was very specific to me, but I think also relatable to a lot of second generation Americans who have experience with their parents' culture(s). I missed being at my house and eating my mom's Indian food, but I also missed being in Chennai and hearing the daily ruckus of the streets outside my meshed window.

I can't exactly replicate the sounds and feelings of being in India while being abroad, but I've been trying to test the Indian food in the area to see if it can keep me at bay for the time being. My roommate and I visited Muglia, a popular Indian restaurant in our area, and we tried some of the dishes I had been missing. I can't say that it completely cured my homesickness but it definitely made me really happy to be in a space with so much of my culture and also remember what it was like to have food with more than 2 spices (sorry Spainards).

It's also been helping a lot to try foods from other cultures from other immigrant families who are living here in Spain. For example, I tried Chinese food from this really tiny shop near my house (called Burger Oriental) run by very few staff members, all of them Chinese, and their food was so delicious and satisfying. It brought me a lot of joy to experience the food of another group of people who also tried to bring a part of their home to this country, and I felt a level of solidarity and kinship with them although I'm only here for a few months. Needless to say, the homesickness will probably stay with me for as long as I'm here but finding the little things around me in Granada that remind me of my family and culture are keeping me going as the nostalgia of fall comes in.

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Roma Sarathi headshot

Roma Sarathi

I am a Linguistics major at Bryn Mawr College with a vow to learn as many languages as I can. You can find me eating Trader Joe's Chili & Lime Flavored Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips and rewatching a comfort show or movie.

2023 Fall
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Bryn Mawr College
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