Around the end of my first month here in Perugia, I started to realize that as magical as this experience abroad is, it’s just as painstakingly difficult—something I wasn’t expecting. I really wasn’t expecting to experience the majority of what I have so far, actually.
In the months leading up to departure, I had friends left and right asking if I was afraid of being away from home for so long and how I would deal with the homesickness that was bound to strike. I never gave it a second thought, waving off their comments and thinking that homesickness only befell people who were wary of independent living or had very little command of the language. Now, a little more than two months in, I know that homesickness is inevitable, no matter how prepared you think you are to be on your own.
Just the other night, I was out to dinner with one of my friends in the program, and he asked me how I was doing, as we don’t see each other very often. My classes at the University of Perugia conflict with the classes and plans of my peers at the Umbra Institute, so I find myself alone most of the time, reading lengthy, convoluted books in the library for hours without interacting with anyone. I was unknowingly isolating myself and becoming more and more dependent on contact with friends and family from home. So, when my friend asked me how I was handling the homesickness, I finally started to understand just how deep my feelings of sadness and seclusion were. Surprisingly, he shared that he was having a difficult time, too, and so were many others in the program. We also talked at length about how frustrating it is to disclose these feelings to friends and family at home because they simply don’t understand what it’s like to be in our place; studying in a completely different country with a confusing university system taking (often) disorienting classes—it’s emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting.
Now, with only a month left and exams beginning to place greater pressure on us, I’ve made it a point to spend more time with people who are feeling just as homesick as I am and want to take the time to discuss it. I feel very grateful to be here and have had an amazing time traveling, taking courses at the University of Perugia, and eating to my heart’s content, but honestly, I feel homesick and that’s okay.
Here’s to the last month in Perugia, may it be full of cappuccini, travel, and heartfelt dinners.