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homesick: so what now?


Moving out is considered by many to be one of the first steps to adulthood. In many cultures it’s very common for young people to start living by themselves from the age of seventeen/eighteen years old, a time which usually corresponds to the beginning of their university studies; for other countries, like mine, this step is postponed.


I was born and raised in Italy, a country where it’s estimated that the average person leaves the parental house at thirty years old. Although the data represents an average, not a universal truth concerning every Italian youngster, it’s true that many decide to keep living with their parents even after high school. This tendency to wait longer to leave the family home surely finds some of its roots within the culture, but I won’t go on analysing customs and traditions, as in this article I would like to share my first-hand experience.


When I first enrolled at my university at the age of eighteen, I decided to keep living with my family. The most obvious reason was that I wasn’t willing to invest my savings to move to a city that I could easily reach by train. Among my closest friends, for example, only those who decided to study in a foreign country moved out, so not leaving my city felt like the most logical thing to do. Moreover, despite the fact that I wasn’t living on my own, I regarded myself as independent so I wasn’t really suffering for my “lack of freedom”. In a sense, staying in my hometown felt more like a natural consequence than a reasoned choice.


In my second year of university, however, I decided to apply for an exchange programme in another European country. I was curious about the idea of studying abroad and living in a different environment for a semester. I was also aware that it was important for me, as a young person, to experience what it is like to study in a foreign country, in a foreign language, especially because despite a few occasions I had never lived abroad for more than a month. Needless to say, when my request was accepted by a university in Paris I was extremely excited about what was about to come.


My first week went by very fast; I was overwhelmed by the beauty and magnificence of the city and all the new things that I was finally seeing for the first time. Paris really is a magical place to be, plus it’s hard to get bored when there are so many activities to do and places to discover.

However, I soon started focusing on the negative aspects of my “new life”, on what was not working out instead of what was actually going well. The reason for this change of attitude is that as I started to deal with a handful of logistical problems, like having to find an apartment by myself last minute after the university in Paris had denied my request for a student accommodation, I started to terribly miss the comfort of my family, of my home. After only three weeks, I forgot how happy I was and I started worrying, wondering if I had made the right choice, if I could actually make it by myself. For the first time in my life, I was feeling homesick and I wasn’t sure how to handle the whirlwind of my emotions. So, I decided to do what I do best: analysing my feelings.


After pondering on my emotions I realised that the problem was that as I was starting to go through changes in my lifestyle, I was struggling to find a new balance and new stability. In fact, I wasn’t really missing material things or physical places; instead, I was longing for the personal connections I had created, the ones I cultivated every day, and the little habits that shaped my life. The turning point was realising that the only thing one can be sure of is that life is always changing, and that’s great! Changes allow us to grow, and without them, we would be stuck in a position that despite being comfortable now, won’t feel good forever. Because of this, instead of simply missing the old stability, it’s essential to learn how to adjust and adapt to the transition in a positive, constructive way. Living in the past, thinking about what you have “left behind”, will distract you from the present which will likely result in the loss of precious opportunities.



As I mentioned, homesickness is a novelty for me so I’m no expert about remedies, but I’ll share some further advice that I think could help us feel a little better:


- Normalize it, don’t bottle it up. Talk about how you feel with the people that are close to you but don’t obsess over it: there’s a fine line between sharing your feelings and feeling sorry for yourself.


- Talk to your family and your friends back home. FaceTime, do a Skype call, stay in touch with them instead of avoiding your “past”. The loneliness that you’re experiencing is only a matter of perspective.


- Treat yourself with the things that you loved to do at home and try to create new habits and routines in your new environment.


- Don’t spend your time dwelling on the past. Locking yourself away in your room to cry alone might be tempting, but I really encourage you to connect with people. Forming new bonds and friendships will help you create a new comfort zone.


- Finally, remember that home is not definitive nor defined. Despite the fact that you might feel insecure and uncomfortable with where you are right now, through self-care and the love from your support system you will get better.


Images by Elisa

English Edited by Kiara

Japanese Translated by Hikari

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