Homesickness has hit. I have had the sense of missing my family and friends for this whole semester, and I thought that this was homesickness [the French call it “le mal du pays”]. It was only after my Spring Break trip that I learned what homesickness really is.
The French call it le mal du pays, which seems to be a better description to me. Obviously I have been having an amazing time studying abroad and I wouldn’t change my situation for the world, but that doesn’t stop me from missing my home. After seeing Snapchats, Instagrams, and tweets about socials, away weekends, and of course Pig Roast, I realized how much was going on in Richmond without me. After talking to my parents, I learned that my little cousin has started walking and talking. No matter how incredible it is to study abroad, it is impossible to not miss all of the things from home.
I had thought that the hardest part of studying abroad would be the classes, cooking for myself, and especially the French! But in the end, the balance between home and here has been the most challenging obstacle for me. I want to stay involved in Richmond and keep up all of my relationships with friends, but at the same time, it is hard to keep up at home and really immerse in life here in Switzerland. Luckily, I have the most amazing friends in Richmond and in Pittsburgh who make me feel loved and missed.
After talking to a lot of other study abroad students, we realized that there is this idea that we all want to show the very best side of study abroad. We want to travel to the coolest places as much as possible just to let everyone at home know that we are having a good time and that we are okay. There’s almost an invisible pressure to have an absolutely perfect study abroad experience that we forget to actually experience it without worrying about what our friends back home think or about what we are ‘supposed’ to think.
I think that in my blogs, I have always highlighted the positive, once-in-a–lifetime experiences of study abroad, but there are also parts that are not so easy. I am getting better and better at really getting into the experience instead of worrying about what I’m ‘supposed’ to be doing (of course I learn this towards the end of the semester). That being said, I think that it is a skill that everyone has to learn, and studying abroad has helped me do it. It’s hard sometimes to do what you want to do, instead of what we are expected to do, but you have to do what makes you happy.
For example, some of my friends went hiking the other day, and despite my adventurous rock climbing and skiing skills, I really don’t like nature all that much. I almost went to the hike, just because I felt like since I am a study abroad student, I ‘should’ be out and about seeing the country. BUT instead I stayed in, watched Scandal, and ate Ben and Jerrys. Such an exciting study abroad life. In the end, I had to realize that studying abroad is an experience for me and no one else.
After getting over my wave of homesickness and eating way too much ice cream, I am getting ready for the last month of classes, which means lots of papers and tests. I haven’t mentioned this in a long time, but my French is actually improving! My hall mates are amazing and insist on speaking to me in French, and my conversations with them have helped so much.
Next week I have an hour long presentation on the Swiss Book as a vector of Cultural Diplomacy in the United States (thrilling, I know). Just before the trip, I will be visiting Gruyeres and the Cailler chocolate factory. Rumor has it that at the end of the factory tour, there is a 10 minute, Hunger-Games style all you can eat extravaganza. This makes me happy, and you can expect a detailed blog about this as soon as I get over the sugar high.