Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Homesick in Bilbao

By Lauren Fisher

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As of today, I have been away from home for exactly five months. This realization is very strange to me, as I have become accustomed to my life here in Bilbao, Spain. Five months feels simultaneously like forever and no time at all. The city is small and easy to navigate, and my language skills have improved immensely, simply because Bilbao is not known for attracting multilingual tourists. I have begun to call this city home.

However, Bilbao will never truly be my home. While I am content and usually loving it here, there are certain cultural aspects of Basque Country lifestyle that are still difficult for me. Once the novelty of being in a new country wore off, the raw, true feelings of  homesickness have come to the surface. Now, the things I appreciate about the United States have become clearer than ever.

This is what I miss (beyond the obvious, friends and family):

  1. Being completely myself. I miss being able to walk into my living room, sprawl out on the couch, and watch a movie without feeling guilty. I can sense my host parents wanting me to sit up straight and get my feet off the cushions. I didn’t realize, until now, how important it is for me to have my own space.
  2. Going to the gym. I miss having a huge, state-of-the-art exercise facility within walking distance that I can use for free. Here a gym membership costs nearly $50 a month and I’d rather spend that money on trips than on a treadmill.
  3. My Car. Having to depend on public transportation, while arguably best for the environment, is not the best for me. Last semester, it was a logistical disaster trying to ride the bus to class everyday because apparently, a bus schedule doesn’t actually mean anything. The bus would come (or not) whenever it felt like it. Also, some of the most cathartic and relaxing experiences in my life back home are when I am driving and singing along to my favorite music.
  4. Eating on my own schedule. The Spanish meal schedule involves eating a miniscule breakfast (think coffee and a piece of toast), a large meal mid afternoon, and then a late small dinner at around 10 P.M. This is very different than at home where I would call myself a grazer because I eat snacks all day. Waiting six hours between meals is very difficult for me. I am looking forward to coming home to my own kitchen, where I can decide what to eat and when.
  5. Making small talk with strangers. I didn’t realize until I went to England, how nice it is to be able to mumble something under your breath and have the person next to you nod in communal agreement. Here, because of my accent, I have to repeat something four times before someone understands me, and by that point,  commenting on how busy the metro is just turns into a, “Never mind, I didn’t say anything” situation.

Based on these five aspects of homesickness, I guess you could say that I am looking forward to coming home. However, there are too many fun and interesting adventures ahead of me to wish the next four months away. Next adventure: Brussels, Belgium for the weekend!

Lauren Fisher can be reached for comment at [email protected]

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