Study abroad is hard.
The day before yesterday, life took a turn for the worse. It was so unexpected, I didn’t realize it was homesickness for a couple of hours. I thought everyone started talking faster in Spanish to spite me, the food tasted like cardboard because my host mom was having an off day, and I couldn’t stop thinking about important people in my life because, well, they’re important. It wasn’t until the only thing that could coax me out of my room was the promising sound of the Big Bang Theory theme that I realized I was desperate for anything that hinted at home.
The feeling stayed with me for about 24 hours, and then it quite suddenly disappeared in the middle of a class. It was a really weird feeling to have a complete attitude change in the span of a minute. During the dark hours, though, I managed to talk to important people, eat Pringles and Oreos, the only American junk food I could easily find, spend a couple of hours googling Texas pictures, sleep, and mope. I thought of some of the most mundane memories and considered starting a countdown to my flight back.
Once I miraculously got over it, I became a positive, functioning person again. I did cave and eat a little McDonald’s today, but it was a craving, not a sickness.
–Side note, Pollo McCrispy’s here are legit fried chicken, not just chicken strips. Also, the McDonald’s is so fancy, it deserves its own post.–
I don’t know if the homesickness will hit again, or as hard, but life’s tough even without it. Here’s a list of the things that don’t fit the adventurous-exciting-beautiful-life changing image I had in my head:
- The language. I think I thought I would magically start speaking Spanish after a two or three-day adjustment period. This did not happen. In the two and a half weeks I have been here, my speaking skills have improved at an unbelievable place, but listening is ridiculously difficult. I’ve achieved the familiar person/fellow exchange student one-on-one level and am working on the 3-hour-long class lecture level. The most advanced level I’ve encountered so far is multiple peers talking at once in a distracting environment. I think that’s the boss battle.
- The classes. The classes are standard university classes, but they’re in ANOTHER LANGUAGE. It’s like being pretty good at algebra and then being thrown into calculus. You know math, but someone threw in a bunch of weird words and symbols when you weren’t looking. I have to look up half the vocabulary of readings and the thought of having to communicate with another human being terrifies me. One time the professor said “grupo” and I almost bolted out of the room. I survived the experience. Barely.
- The American cravings. I’ve talked about craving food, but that’s really the smallest part. I miss having a familiar bookstore where I can hide for 3 hours reading the types of books that aren’t quite interesting enough to buy. I miss having a familiar place to run. I miss staying in a hotel room with my mom. I miss driving in a truck with my dad. I miss hearing country music in stores. I miss Waffle House. I miss the first winds of fall. I miss specific professors from UNT. I miss not being stared at everywhere I go.
- Making friends. I simultaneously wish strangers would talk to me and that I never have to spontaneously speak in Spanish with another human being. I don’t know if it’s because I’m such a fierce intimidating person or if it’s part of Latin American culture, but no one randomly talks to me. Once I gather the courage, I’ll have to make the effort. It’s hard though, because I was lucky enough to bond with the other exchange students (who are great) and it’s just easier to hang out with them and speak English.
- Homesickness, por supuesto. It’s actually quite interesting because I got to go to Santa Teresa, a beach area in the north-western part of the country with a group of estudiantes intercambios last weekend. It was fun, and I got to see some beautiful places and have a couple of adventures, but I actually got homesick for Heredia and my host family. I guess two displacements in two weeks is more than I can handle right now.