I need to grow up
May 17, 2008 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Help me get over being homesick.

I moved to the US in July of last year for graduate school (to get my PhD). I'm 22 and did my schooling and undergrad in my hometown in India. I lived at home with my parents through college. I'm suddenly feeling almost unbearably homesick. I think that until now I've been too busy with classes and social activities to feel too homesick but now everything's just hitting me all at once. Also my parents visited me in the fall of last year and I went home in December for 3 weeks, so that helped me.
I guess five months really isn't all that long a time but it feels like forever and I really really miss my parents and extended family. More than anything else I miss that sense that nothing bad can happen to you and that I could just call my mom and dad for help and they'd be there in fifteen minutes. I totally didn't expect to feel this way because when I was at home I couldn't wait to leave -- I'm an only child and I felt like they exercised far too much control over me. Yet when I look back all I can remember is a life of comfort and ease and a readymade social network. It doesn't help that every time my mother talks to me she tells me about the three times they went out for dinner last week and the sailing classes she's taking and the holiday they're going on next week. Makes me wonder why I ever wanted to give all that up to go to graduate school.
Other than this sudden homesickness I feel like I'm doing fine here. I have a boyfriend who I'm very serious about and we have a great relationship. I've made some friends and am doing well in school. I've set up my apartment to be comfortable and cook regularly.
And I understand that all this is a pretty natural part of growing up and becoming independent, but it's much harder than I ever expected it to be. So any strategies and advice you have to give me about overcoming this feeling that I should just give it all up and go home would be wonderful.
posted by peacheater to Human Relations (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If you go to a large school, it's a virtual certainty that there will be clubs and organizations centered around aspects of Indian culture in particular and international students in general. Try them out if you haven't done so already -- it's a connection to home, and you'll meet people who are in the same boat.
posted by Krrrlson at 3:50 PM on May 17, 2008

Best answer: First off, stop worrying about your homesickness, or feeling guilty about it. Nothing you're going through is unusual or in any way childish. Just because a lot of people have to deal with (a smaller version of) what you're going through during their freshman year of college, it's not in any way reserved to 18-year-olds. The separation from you family, your friends, and even in your case your culture is a serious change, and one that would be difficult any time in your life. I went away to college for the first time and had a really hard time with it, and even having gone through that I've had a lot of trouble adjusting to a far-away graduate school - I had some really crazy anxiety issues that went in weird directions due to exactly the kind of loss of security you're talking about. Be patient with yourself, stay in touch with home as much as you can, and over time things will become easier. You'll develop a circle of friends you know you can rely on, and that will be a great comfort. You might always miss home - I know I will - but that'll become much more bearable and you'll start to realize that the sacrifice is worth it. Home will still be there for you to go back to later, so there's no point in giving up yet. If you find in a few years that you're still miserable, then you can consider giving up. Good luck, things will start looking up soon.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:14 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

This feeling will pass. Even if you try some of the things people suggest that you do and they don't work, it won't mean you will feel like this forever. Just give yourself time -- it's natural to miss home and to miss the safety of your family, and over time, you will come out on the other side.
posted by prefpara at 5:03 PM on May 17, 2008

This is totally normal, including the sudden intense feelings. But you sound like you made the decision to come to the US for solid reasons and that you're doing okay here -- trust yourself that you made a good decision, and listen to that rational voice in your head that already acknowledges that that five months isn't a long time. Make a list of all the good things about being in graduate school. Make a list of all the things that make you happy right now. Your folks and home will still be there when you're finished with school.

Frequently, the good stuff is harder than you thought it would be. Hey, you may find when you finally finish and go home for a vacation that you've turned some kind of a corner and find yourself missing the US and your apartment and your boyfriend so much that a few weeks feels like a lifetime...
posted by desuetude at 5:14 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: First off, stop worrying about your homesickness, or feeling guilty about it.

Right. I find that when you have a strong emotion that you think you shouldn't feel, it's best to give in to it, and say to yourself, "My heart is breaking. I feel like hell. And that's okay, because that's what happens to people in this situation."

I've uprooted myself a lot for schooling and other reasons, so I know how homesickness takes you. Be sympathetic to yourself. Since your mother isn't here, you need to mother yourself a little. Read comfort books, and watch hilarious movies. Join your friends to hear them laugh and talk. Or go on a walk in the woods by yourself, so you can learn to love the local plants and trees.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:47 PM on May 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't have any great advice here, but wanted to tell you that I know how you feel. I moved to the UK for my PhD and suffered from *incredible* homesickness. It's something that I have dealt with my entire life - every time I go away somewhere it happens. What helps a little bit is to realize that it's a GUT feeling, it isn't something I can control and to know that there's nothing wrong with me for feeling this way. Distraction helps a lot - going to movies, reading, focusing on my work. Please feel free to msg me if you want to talk.
posted by meerkatty at 8:14 PM on May 17, 2008

Best answer: There are two types of homesickness you're facing. One is the expat experience of being in a different country and culture from where you grew up and having your friends and family so far away. The other is the feeling you have that being a grownup sucks, and you wish you were a kid again.

I'm in my thirties, and I moved to the UK three years ago. For the first few months it was so exciting and different that I didn't get a chance to get homesick. The first intense waves of it came later. Once I was flipping channels and there was an American tv show on and the sound of the American accents sort of grabbed my heart and nearly brought me to tears. These feelings come and go, but will probably always be with me. Even if I returned to the US, I'd probably be homesick for my adopted country. For me, it's worth it to have had the experiences I've had, and I wouldn't change it.

As to the other type, probably most of us have the feeling sometimes that we're actually imposters in the adult world. When we were kids, the adults had all the answers. So you grow up and you wait for all the answers to come, and they don't. You just muddle through the best you can. Really the best cure for this feeling is to go home. Spending a few days or weeks in your parents' house will help you realize that you really aren't a kid anymore.

There's nothing wrong or unusual about how you are feeling, but it will get better. Good luck to you.
posted by happyturtle at 12:15 AM on May 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses everyone. I think a few things really rang true for me.
Just because a lot of people have to deal with (a smaller version of) what you're going through during their freshman year of college, it's not in any way reserved to 18-year-olds.
That's true. I ought to give myself a break.

Read comfort books, and watch hilarious movies.
I actually have been doing this, though I didn't really connect it with my homesickness before. I've suddenly gotten all nostalgic about old books I read, especially children's books and have started reading them again, much to the amazement of my boyfriend who can't understand what I can possibly see in Chalet School books.

One is the expat experience of being in a different country and culture from where you grew up and having your friends and family so far away. The other is the feeling you have that being a grownup sucks, and you wish you were a kid again.

happyturtle, I think you really nailed it here.
posted by peacheater at 9:45 AM on May 18, 2008

I don't know if I have any meaningful advice, but I feel you. I left home August 21st, 2007 and haven't seen any of my immediate or extended family since then. That makes nearly 10 months alone and in continental Europe, and it has had its ups and downs.

I actually feel that the first two months were the worst. I remember waking up in France in a host family's house and thinking..."What? I won't see my parents for such a long time. I won't hug my mother again in almost a year." That was hard. But I guess I just sort of...got used to it. Got used to not seeing people I knew and made friends as best I could.

I don't think you can make it go away. Just try to enjoy your time now and look forward to when you will see everyone again. It will go by so quickly. I see my parents in Sweden in 1 month now and leave France in 9 days. It's like all of a sudden the train screeches to a halt right when it's over. There's no real acknowledgement or understanding of its imminent ending until the moment when it's really over. It's bizarre, how it works like that.

Good luck. Like my mom told me before I left home, "When I was younger I knew a lot of guys that left for a year or two to fight in Vietnam. That time was nothing. When they came back, everything was the same. So don't worry about it. One or two years isn't long enough to change everything when you're in your 20s, and you'll be home before you know it. Everything will be the way you left it."

I thought that was good advice.
posted by nonmerci at 11:16 AM on May 19, 2008

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