A few days from now marks my one-month anniversary of being in Stockholm, and I’ve gotten a consensus from some of my coursemates that now is about prime time to miss home and all the things that America has that, well, Sweden doesn’t have.
Last post I talked in length about how at home I feel in Stockholm, but something in the past week has flipped and I’m beginning to feel further and further from home every day.
But I know other people are feeling the same way. I know other people miss Target, I know other people miss their moms, I know other people miss college football and fire-colored leaves in New England, I know other people miss their best friends and late nights and familiar faces. . .
and I know, if you’re reading this, you’ll miss some of those things, too.
So, here are some tips I have to allow you to embrace your homesickness without going so far as to buy a plane ticket back to Boston or JFK or O’Hare or LAX or wherever else you may call home:
get outta town!
The more dramatic route, I know, but one that has potentially drastically wonderful effects. I’ve been in Stockholm for a month, and I haven’t so much as wandered a wee bit outside of these 20 square miles (or whatever that is in kilometers). And that is so SO good. I know the city like the back of my hand already – I couldn’t give ya street names, but I could point you to the nearest major landmark or body of water or T station.
BUT—big but!—distance makes the heart grow fonder, in love and in travel.
After settling in a routine here, it’s easy to let your mind wander to home, where things are different, where the routine is more familiar, where you go to Whole Foods to buy your fresh American fruits and vegetables as opposed to taking the daily subway trip to Hemköp to buy one (1) carrot juce and one (1) apple to make up for not eating any other fruits or vegetables that day.
But anyway. What I’m trying to say is – routine is good, but once you’re used to life in Stockholm, it may become a bit trickier to keep your mind off of all the things you haven’t thought of in a month, i.e. the luxuries of the USA.
And more, it’s always good to have something to look forward to, and when due dates start to fill the calendar, having a little trip away from everything can impact your general attitude, both here in Stockholm and wherever you may live in the States.
I just booked a ticket to go to Copenhagen next weekend to meet a friend from school. Booking that cheap, one-hour flight and the equally cheap, communal hostel has brightened my mood more than I could have imagined.
Sometimes it takes some time away from your town to appreciate what it has to offer.
let yourself be homesick.
Or, in other words, don’t feel guilty about wishing you were home. This is such an incredible opportunity we have, but it’s SO possible to be both thankful and homesick.
Let yourself be homesick – let your mind wander to football games and apple orchards and familiar streets and communal bedrooms with your best friends. Let yourself look at Instagram and be jealous of friends at school. Let yourself call your mom a couple days in a row. Don’t repress these feelings. Embrace them! This is the perfect time to count your blessings. Everything you’ve taken for granted is basically pouring itself out in front of you to the forefront of your mind.
Write these things down! Keep them on your laptop! Look at them a few months after arriving to the US when you’re missing Sweden, and remind yourself how good your life is.
Take advantage of your sadness and your longing. Text your mom and dad and tell them you love them (but be cautious of international rates), buy a postcard and send it to your significant other (or grandma), group FaceTime your buddies from home (when you can coordinate the time zones) – there’s no reason to cut out your normal life out cold turkey.
be present and be open.
Maybe this contradicts everything I just said, but maybe it doesn’t. Life is about balance, anyhow, and you can’t spend every moment of every day thinking about home – you’re in Europe, for goodness sake! Take advantage!
One thing I have noticed, and one thing that will become instantly clear to you, is that Europe and the United States are two very different places. Crazy, right? Who knew?
The food is different, the atmosphere is different, the way people interact is different, the stores are different, . . . most things are different.
And while it’s easy to dwell on the differences and wish you had it the good ol’ way, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Be mindful of your actions, and, despite what parents and teachers and mentors have told you, go with the crowd. Live out all your wildest European dreams by throwing yourself into Swedish food and night life and culture. Take advantage of the differences, because in four or three or two or just one month, you won’t have the opportunity to relish in whatever Scandinavian cultural things you find yourself particularly taken to.
Don’t like the awkward wave back to someone you thought was waving at you but wasn’t? No worries – that doesn’t happen in Sweden.
Don’t like sitting next to people on public transit? Again, not in Sweden!
Do you like taking a break in the middle of the day to eat pastries with your friends? Hey, Sweden does that!
But it goes beyond that. Society is set up differently here than it is in the US – it’s inherent and obvious in almost every situation you can imagine. So take the time to get a little academic with it – don’t just do, but think about why things are the way things are. Engage with the culture on more than just the surface level – think about it! It makes you more worldly.
The time you have here is temporary – at least try the things you don’t like and think about why you don’t like them (learn about yourself!) and embrace the things you do like.
Be mindful, be present, and be contemplative.
I don’t think I need to say “be thankful,” because that’s obvious – but do be thankful, of both the things you have here in Sweden and the things you don’t have. Be thankful for having two homes – one may feel a bit too far away at the moment, but remember that the world is small – every person is a phone call away.
Studying abroad is a brave thing to do, but, like most brave things, it’s a beautiful thing, too.
Remember who you are and where you come from, but remember you are not where you come from – this experience is temporary, and, even more, it’s fleeting – have a positive and open mind and make the most of every day, no matter how hard it can be.
Everyone around you is feeling the same way. You’re not alone, and your feelings are completely and utterly expected and sound.
Have the time of your life. Do things you’ve never done before. Be safe. Be Swedish while you can! You’ll miss it when it’s gone.