Homesick, Rome-sick

By Lauren Vincent

Katie Wynkoop/Collegian
Katie Wynkoop/Collegian

Last year, I was lucky enough to spend a semester studying in Rome, Italy. In retrospect and during most of the time while I was there, I can truthfully say it was one of the best experiences of my life. However there was a period of adjustment where I could not really feel totally happy in my adopted foreign environment. Homesickness plagued me for the initial two weeks or so, and it still nagged at me periodically over the course of my stay.

I felt to me like ungratefulness.

Here I was in this beautiful country that I’d always dreamed of traveling to, and all I wanted was to go home. I began to think that I would never really be content, that I would always be yearning for something, and I was not at all happy with this realization. I hated myself for being so sentimental because I felt it was going to bring down this experience – which was supposed to be the best thing that I ever did.

So, I forced myself to really live in the moment because I knew the minute I returned home I’d be homesick for my life abroad.

After a while the homesickness ebbed. I got to know Rome and the people around me, and truly learned to love them the way I loved home. I was happy, but I still longed for my family and friends on the other side of the ocean, and even for my lifestyle at the University. One friend I met there said she wished she could bring her school campus to Rome, and then and only then, would she be completely happy. Even that thought didn’t satisfy me. I realized neither of the two places would be the way they were now, and that was how I knew and liked them.

This little irritating idea stayed in the back of mind for most of my stay. I’m not saying that it interfered with my enjoying the semester, but it was just something that would surface now and then as a mild annoyance. It seemed unfair that I could never live in complete bliss, because for me that meant living in two places at once.

Now that I’m home – wishing most of the time that I was still living as a pseudo Roman – it makes a little more sense. I can always go back there, and when I do I will feel welcome and familiar, as opposed to strange and scared.

I went to several other cities while I was in Europe and as corny as it sounds, I left a part of myself in each of them. But when you take yourself out of your comfort zone, you long for something familiar, and you look for parts of home in every place you go.

I saw fairytales, like Hansel and Gretel, from my childhood in the Bavarian side of Germany. I remembered all the stories my grandparents told me when I was Paris. I tasted my mom’s sauce in Italian spaghetti. I pretended I was in Bridget Jones’ diary in London. I felt like I was in Boston with my family when I was in Dublin. All of this made it easier, and made me realize that you’re never really that far away from yourself no matter where you are. That all kind of came together for me, and I didn’t even realize it until I was back in Massachusetts, having a random longing to be walking down a street in Versailles holding a Starbucks cup. The contradictory feelings that bothered me so much before suddenly seemed to be an indication of my versatility.

The adjustment period, which was a constant, if subtle presence during my stay was uncomfortable, to say the least. But I needed it to truly appreciate just how wonderful my life abroad was.

We look for what we know in things that are unfamiliar. When we find the little parts of home, we realize that home is everywhere if we so choose.

Lauren Vincent is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]