I put in my headphones as I looked out onto the view of the Han River on the boat that I was on. The sun was beginning to set and seeing all sorts of colors reflect onto the river was such a beautiful sight.
At the time, I was on a cruise for a buffet event that my program provider scheduled for the students. Having already eaten and not wanting to stay seated, I decided that I would go outside onto the deck and take in the view from there instead of looking at it through the window.
My friends decided that they were going to stay inside so I proceeded to go outside alone. My favorite song by the artist Billie Eilish began to play through my headphones and for a second, time began to slow down.
The view was intensely gorgeous and I was alone with my thoughts which caused me to reflect. It was the end of my fourth week in the program which meant that I had been in South Korea for almost a whole month.
During my time here, I have been able to learn so much about South Korean culture, appreciate the beautiful aesthetic views of the country, and also learn so many things about myself. For the first few weeks, I was in a state of happiness, barely missing home. I definitely miss my family and friends but it never truthfully affected me.
I had heard that homesickness is a common symptom of studying abroad but I did not believe that I was going to be too affected by it. After all, I was 2/3 complete with my program which meant that I was almost coming home. Why would I begin to feel homesick now? However, I quickly changed my mind the longer I stayed out looking at the Han River.
I began to imagine what it would be like if my family and friends were next to me. My mother would probably be begging me to take beautiful pictures of her. My dad would probably be devouring all the good food that he could eat.
My little sister might have done what I was doing and put her headphones in to also take in the view. I imagined talking to my closest friends and having a deep conversation while we admired Korea together. All these thoughts definitely made me begin to feel down at the moment but, it initiated a trail of thoughts that have lingered even until now that I am writing this blog post.
On my social media, my followers see the happy sides of my studying abroad experience which include photos and videos of places I have gone to or food that I am trying. The part that is often concealed are these low points when I am beginning to miss everyone back at home.
I am currently struggling to call it homesickness quite exactly though. See, I love South Korea tremendously and I am beginning to consider it my second home. Being here makes me feel super safe and assimilating has not been too much of a difficult task for me.
That being said, I do not miss the United States all that much which is the part of homesickness that makes me question whether I really want to classify it as such. However, whether I am homesick or not, I know that these low points are pieces of my trip that cannot be omitted in conversation. I believe that it is important to talk about these matters because it comes with a lot of weight and pressure for students abroad.
As a student abroad that has expressed excitement for over a year to her advisers, co-workers, and other peers, I began to question if I would disappoint them if they were to find out that this is how I was feeling.
Would I have let them down by thinking too much of them and not enough on the experience that I am having right now? For the last few days, this is what I have been asking myself and it created a bit of guilt within me. I felt like I was falling short of the expectations set upon me.
I knew that people would want to hear all about how lovely my trip was however, it is not in my nature to conceal the reality of a situation. I may still feel a bit down but, I have decided to change my point of view on the whole situation. What I am feeling is completely human and I should never feel ashamed for feeling the way that I do.
When I get back home, I will gladly like to tell my peers and family all about the not-so-pretty parts that studying abroad may come with. That does not mean that my whole trip was not worth it though. There is not a bone in my body that regrets making this decision.
Since coming here, I have been able to meet such a great variety of people from all over the world and I have discovered that although we may be from different places, we share many similarities. Studying abroad broadens your mind to become much more global and it gives you a whole different perspective on life.
It forces you to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and for me, that is being away from home without people that I am used to. Once I return home, I can tell myself that I made it through a whole summer semester being by myself, and I turned out fine so, truthfully, what is there that I would not be able to overcome?
For anyone reading this blog who shares a similar level of guilt that I felt myself, I would like for you to read this:
No, you are not letting anyone down by feeling this way. Sometimes we need to remember that we are human and are prone to feeling a wide range of emotions. Hang in there and open yourself to feeling uncomfortable.
Your feelings are valid but remember, you went abroad; that is already hard enough and you succeeded in doing that. Things will get better and just hang in there. Soon you will look back at this experience and you will be able to feel proud.