Expanding the Idea of Home through Studying Abroad: The Most Memorable Points of Life

Lili S. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Sidwell Friends in Washington, D.C.

Some concepts are easy to see, easy to feel, or at least clear enough and concrete enough that they are recognizable. Most of the concepts that affect our daily lives, moods, happiness levels, and overall general mental well-being are more abstract, and much harder to grasp a solid understanding or feeling on: things like love, dealing with pain, and home.

Home is ever-changing, and an idea that’s so much more than a place, or even a person. It’s one of those things that you can use the phrase “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone” with, meaning that most don’t truly appreciate how much they need home until they leave it, or it changes in some drastic way. As teenagers, we all tend to become a little embarrassed or annoyed with what home holds as we enter high school, but then again, most of us don’t have the opportunity to be away from home for an extended period of time until we are drifting out of the classic “pissed-off teenager” phase, have grown up a little bit, and are getting ready to go to college, or the “real-world”, which is just another way of saying being without your family for the first time.

When studying abroad, in the beginning, you find home, and familiarity, in small things: someone playing you and your best friend’s favorite song, someone mentioning your brother’s favorite restaurant, someone reading your mom’s favorite book, someone using the same slang words that you and your friends do, someone mentioning that one time they visited the city you’re from and they walked those streets that you walk every day, or even someone just having a specific movement, talking in a certain way, or facial expression that reminds you of someone from home. And in those fleeting moments, you feel as if you’re back home, just for a second, and everything that is wrong, or unfamiliar, or difficult, or confusing about this new place and these new people goes away. But every time that feeling of home goes away, it is replaced with being a step closer to your new home, an expansion of your home, and everything in this new place gets a little easier, a little bit more familiar, and a little bit less overwhelming. Eventually, this new city and these new people start to feel like home even when they aren’t reminding you of someone or something else. The little things that once made you feel better are still there, but suddenly that list doubles, and things like walking into your favorite coffee place, meeting your friends at your usual spot, discovering really good music, restaurants, and new places together, and the daily school drama brings a new home into your life, one you didn’t even know was forming until it’s there, all of a sudden, one day, out of the blue. A home that, after only a semester, you find it impossible to imagine living without. You find yourself in the middle of new adventures, opening up to different people, and experiencing new situations. All with people, who, four months ago, you could barely remember their names, but are now part of your family.

Studying abroad is always a little bit of give and take: because everything is so new, there will always parts that you never saw coming, both in the best and most difficult ways. There will also be the amazing and hard parts that you did expect, but never realized how strongly you’d feel them. The hardest parts of this program are things you share with everyone else here, creating an unbreakable bond between you and your newest best friends, and overcoming those hard times creates a friendship that has already been through some of the hardest days of your life, and the best moments are times that you will all cherish for the rest of your time abroad and the rest of your life, because you share them with the only other people in this city that can truly understand how hard you’ve worked to get to the good times, and how much you have put into this place to make it stand out from all the other cities you’ve visited, how much it takes to make somewhere home.

The rollercoaster of SYA is far from over for me and those that have become to feel like family, but at this point, as we begin second semester, there’s no part of me that dreads the next five months, even though I know there will be moments that feel as if I can’t get through them, that I’m really not okay. I look forward to everything, even those times, because I know that I have my city and my people to pick me up and strengthen me when I fall.

 

  • Campus Reporters
  • SYA Spain