The Year Abroad is an amazing opportunity that we students at Bath are very lucky to have. We get to live, work and study in new and exciting places, meet people from all over the world and immerse ourselves completely in different cultures.
As amazing as this experience is, however, it is by no means easy. And whilst scrolling through social media it may appear that everyone else on your course is having the time of their lives and have transitioned seamlessly into their new surroundings, I can assure you that that is not the case.
Because moving to a different country and having to live in a completely new environment all by yourself is really hard, and that’s okay – it’s supposed to be!
When I first moved out here to Italy at the beginning of August I was riddled with nerves and absolutely terrified, but after a few tears and some time to adapt, I quickly got caught up by my new daily routine and the new friends I was making. I was enjoying the aperitivo lifestyle, meeting people from different countries and exploring my new home.
Everything was going great, and then suddenly it just hit me. I really missed home. And I’m not just talking about a good cup of tea – which I do really miss, to be honest – I missed nights in with my family, laughing until my stomach hurt with my friends, binge-watching Netflix shows with my boyfriend, or even just going to the local supermarket and bumping into people who know me.
Being so far away from home and everything that makes you feel comfortable - and you - can feel really isolating. Especially when you hear about all the fun things your friends and family are getting up to, whilst you’re sat in a strange apartment feeling a bit lonely.
And it’s really frustrating feeling homesick – you want to give yourself a slap and tell yourself to stop feeling ungrateful, to enjoy this amazing experience whilst you can and just have fun like everyone else is (or appears to be).
But the thing is, feeling homesick is 100% normal and pretty much every Year Abroad student will experience it. Being in a new country, speaking a different language and starting a new job/at a new university are all hard enough feats as it is, but putting them all together is one daunting task. Of course there will be times when you just want to be home, to retreat back into that safe bubble where you feel comfortable and like you know what you’re doing.
Leaving that bubble is really difficult, and even being out here in the big wide world and facing these challenges is a really commendable thing. So go easy on yourself, and realise that feeling homesick doesn’t make you any less grateful or mean that you’re not making the most of this year.
My biggest piece of advice would be to find something that makes you feel at home, and when those niggling feelings of homesickness come along, just allow yourself to indulge in it. My saving grace over the last few weeks has been overpriced English Breakfast tea and old series of The Great British Bake Off on Netflix – it’s not quite home, but it helps.
And just remember; while it may seem that everyone else is finding the Year Abroad so easy and that you’re all on your own feeling like this, I can promise you that they're probably struggling too. The important thing is to talk about it with friends and family, remind yourself how well you’re doing and, if you’re in Italy, pizza will always have your back.
*If you feel as though your mental health is suffering whilst abroad and you are really struggling, please get in touch with your Placement Officer - there is support available for you and there is always someone to talk to.