The first time I felt homesick, I hadn’t even left the country yet. My mom and brother had just dropped me off at the airport. They had stayed with me until I entered the security line, and then, with a few hugs and wave goodbyes, they were gone. It’d be the last time I saw them again until summer break, the longest we’d ever been apart. Suddenly, that notion, so unconcerning a few moments before, felt unfathomable.
The second time it happened, I had just arrived in my dormitory, the place I’ll call “home” for the next two years. My roommate was nowhere to be found. I was alone, confused, and incredibly overwhelmed, hating the unfamiliarity and wondering why did I ever think studying abroad was a good idea. I got a call from my mom that night. I picked up the phone, trying to sound as if everything was going well, when my voice cracked and I broke down crying, begging, “Mommy, I want to go home.”
The third time, I was deeply sick with a cold; feverish, exhausted, and miserable. My roommate brought me soup, but all I wanted was to be in my own house, with Friends on the TV and a mom who would rub my back as I fell asleep. For the first time ever, I hated being abroad. The feeling went away the moment I recovered, but for those 7 days, nothing felt worse than being 9,371 miles away from home.
Then, there were more moments of homesickness: Christmas, when I Skyped my mom after a disappointing meal; my 20th birthday, when messages from home flooded my Facebook; three weeks ago, when thousands took to the streets of my country, Malaysia, to celebrate our Independence Day, and all I could do was read online articles and look at photos.
In between those times, I loved America too. It’s a beautiful, incredible country with amazing people. In this past year, I’ve made many close friends, and have fulfilled every “find yourself” cliché there is about studying abroad. However, those bouts of homesickness still rattled me even though I was happy here. That feeling never leaves.
Two years is a long time to be away from home, especially when you’re young and in a foreign country. Even if you love where you are, it’s natural to be ready to leave. So many people, including me at some point, seem to believe that if you’re homesick, you must be having a miserable time, but it doesn’t have to mean that. It can simply mean that two years, no matter how long, is a lot of time to realize that coming to America isn’t easy and not everyone has the opportunity to do so. I chose this path. I have to keep pushing forward.
The first three months was really difficult, but that was when I grew most. After the first semester, I look back and realize how far I’ve come since I left Malaysia. I went home during the summer break with a whole new perspective on education and life.
I’ve noticed differences between two cultures, and I’ve learned to appreciate them. As cliché as it sounds, I’m definitely a different person now. Things don’t scare me like they used to.
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