When home is 3000 miles away

The lonely times in College through the eyes of an international student

Life as an international student is great. New country, new culture, new friends. However, as someone who would identify as an “extroverted homebody,” as good as it can be to leave home and start my life elsewhere, it is hard to go months without curling up on the couch to watch murder mysteries with my mom.

There are days where I do not miss home at all. I feel I could spend years wandering around, doing as I please; it’d be nice to see my family, but I don’t need to. Then there are days when my body hurts from missing home, my heart aches to hear my dad laughing or my brother singing. On those days, nothing but cuddles from my friends here, and long FaceTimes with my family help.

The hardest thing about leaving home is missing my brothers grow up. The youngest is 16 and growing into an incredible athlete (he is trying to get recruited for college baseball); he is caring and compassionate, and kinder with every passing day. My other brother is 18 and has already finished applying for colleges, a challenging part of any high schooler’s life, and he has completed it with strength, maturity, and poise. As their older sister, I want to be there for those moments in my brothers’ lives, to help them, and to pass on all my knowledge, but one can only do so much over FaceTime.

One big thing I have gained since coming to college abroad is a much deeper appreciation for all the things my parents did for me or taught me (I can clean a kitchen like nobody’s business), but also for the time at home. I do not take for granted the time mom and I spend running errands or watching films together. I am fully present when my dad and I listen to music together – he still sends me things to listen to when I am at school. I will still get annoyed when my brother asks me to drive him to Dunkin’ Donut’s in below-freezing temperatures, but I’ll enjoy getting an iced coffee with him all the same.

I miss the little things about home: the free laundry in a machine that actually works, a full fridge with fresh fruits and food that hasn’t gone off, driving around aimlessly with friends, my brothers, my parents, and all of us sitting in the TV room on our devices but together nevertheless. I miss the big things: a heating bill I don’t stress about, my wonderful dog, my house, my friends, the nicer weather. I really miss hugs from my parents.

I miss knowing what’s happening in the lives of my brothers and parents. I miss my dog lopping into the kitchen to say good morning, and pushing his nose into my leg and then towards the pantry door to ask for breakfast. I miss Saturday mornings, coming downstairs and finding my brother whipping up pancakes larger than my face, bacon, and a pot of coffee sitting on the warmer waiting for me.

Reading Week was tough because, on the one hand, I could go home: I had a week off from college so why not? But flights are expensive and I’d spend a day traveling, most of the week jet-lagged, a day traveling back to Dublin, and then I’d be tired for another week. Plus, my brothers would be at school, my parents at work, and my friends at college. It just isn’t worth it to go home only to sit alone during the days.

I was fortunate enough to spend this Reading Week surrounded by friends and, almost more exciting, their parents. I cannot fully describe the feeling of having a mom or dad nearby, even if they are not your own mom or dad. Just knowing that there is someone there who is slightly more responsible than you and who provides home cooked meals and a calming voice.

A friend of mine and her family were kind enough to take me in during Reading Week because all my housemates were away; no one wants to be trapped alone at home for several days. Their kindness to me was a godsend. And being around a family for a few days is almost as good as being home. Her mom says good night and good morning, her sister and I hold mock grudges over the Game of Life (she sued me) and my friend and I sit side by side working (she far harder than I). It has also been a comfort to my family, knowing there is a parent nearby, just to be there.

Do I miss home? Yes, frequently. But I have a home here which I have built with the help of friends and their families. I live with four girls who might as well be my sisters; I love them to the moon and back. I have friends who welcome me into their home and bring me into their family when I need it. I will enjoy going home over the summer holidays, but I can guarantee you that after a month, I’ll be missing my other home: here.