Across the Pond

Homesickness: accepting the inevitable

Grace Schutte

More stories from Grace Schutte

May 10, 2023

Photo by Grace Schutte

Phrases like, “It’s not every day you’re in Europe!” and “Take advantage of this while you can!” make me break out in hives.

Note: “Across the Pond” is an on-going column in which freelance writer Grace Schutte will be writing about her study abroad experience in Valladolid, Spain.

Well, it has finally happened: Today, I am homesick. 

While this is not the first time I’ve felt this way within the last two-and-a-half months, it has hit me hard today. Students in Spain, locals and otherwise, have officially entered the midterm season, and I am going through it. 

That’s right, we do school over here, too. I assure you, it’s not all play. Unfortunately. 

This upcoming week, in particular, is playing the role of Looming-Cloud-of-Doom No. 1, filled with four crucial exams in three days. 

Exam scores have more emphasis in the education system in Spain rather than homework and papers, resulting in regular unit tests making upwards of 30% of final grades.  

In light of this, my purse is filled with a plethora of different flashcard stacks — all mismatched and bent from my frantic scribbling. 

Looming-Cloud No. 2 is purely anxiety-based. 

Our “spring break” coincides with Semana Santa and kicks off immediately after exams. Two weeks off is more than enough time to traipse around the continent, shaking off the remaining adrenaline from the previous week’s mad dash to the testing finish line. 

However, with vacation comes all the regular travel scaries, like making sure all the tickets and documentation are there, like COVID-19 tests (just in case) and that transportation to the airport is all in order.

The final doomsday cloud is a collection of smaller, more vicious stressors like emailing my academic advisor to double-check that I can register for fall semester classes from my phone in Italy and the terrifying sensation of how quickly time is slipping away. 

 Just regular study abroad things. 

With the stress accumulating at an alarming and dangerous rate, I remind myself that this sensation — the itchy skin, hair loss and sleepless nights  — was the baseline in the United States. I will be completely fine. 

Ah, yes, how American of me, gaslighting myself out of panic.

But with those real concerns compartmentalized and pushed aside, I finally paid attention to what I was feeling: tired, overwhelmed and a little lost. 

There is immense pressure to “live your best life” while studying abroad, whether it be from well-meaning friends and family, yourself or all of the above. Phrases like, “It’s not every day you’re in Europe!” and “Take advantage of this while you can!” make me break out in hives.

But, when it comes to letting my body have a needed break, scrolling on TikTok in my room only makes me feel guilty. That hour I spent on Instagram could’ve been spent studying, exploring the city or hunting down a husband to secure myself a Green Card

All the conflict inside me makes me miss home. There are big things I miss, like the mountainous terrain and forests, and small ones, too, like late-night drives to that one Korean restaurant with my friends and the English language. 

There is no conclusion, reader. 

I am still conflicted and as stressed as ever, but I do have a parting note for those considering studying abroad: Let yourself feel what you’re feeling — frustrated, tired and everything else. 

I will also say, it is temporary, all of it (not gaslighting!), and that letting your emotions run their natural course will make it all the more bearable. 

Sincerely, an appreciative, though exhausted, study abroad-er. 

Schutte can be reached at [email protected]