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Homesickness

By F+

Illustration by Cat Cao

Homesickness manifests itself through a variety of hard-to-identify, and often uncomfortable emotions. It’s both a desire to be placed back into a memory, and sadness that this moment won’t happen again. Longing nostalgia stems from a fear of the future, and in the cases of inbound college students, the thrilling but terrifying thought of being away from home. As an addition to the inevitable changes that come with living in a new home, moving to a new country implies cultural and language barriers that can often make one feel lonely.

I moved to Chicago on a whim — my only knowledge of what the city was like came from the movie “The Vow,” and a brief, one-day visit to the underground maze on Navy Pier when I was eight years old. I was used to living in Ecuador, a country referred to as “primavera eterna,” or eternal spring in Spanish. I lived in the capital, located in the middle of a valley belonging to the infamous Andean mountain range, blessed with the breezy yet hot climate of a country on the equator. It sounds like paradise, but by the time I was packing my bags to move out, I was more than ready to leave. There were greater problems with me staying in Ecuador that I knew were more important than fresh fruit always being in season and enjoying the beautiful landscapes. I felt unsafe walking around the area that I lived in, had a less than stable relationship with my family, and most importantly I knew that I had learned everything that I’d needed to from the people I was surrounded by and the environment that I was in. It was time to move on to new experiences, interactions, and ideas.

The first semester would seem like the clearest time to be homesick, however that didn’t seem to be the case. Getting used to a new city and surroundings, in combination with the excitement and drama of constantly being surrounded by new people of the same age is a good distraction from missing life as a high schooler.

Then comes the reminder of home during winter break, which entails returning to parents who have been getting used to the idea of “the empty nest” and smothering their returning offspring with as much attention as they can manage. It seemed like a break from reality, a lingering scent of childhood. From being able to go out whenever I wanted and not having to explain when I came back at ungodly hours, to asking my mom for permission to go to the corner store (although frustrating), was a way to fit back into the comfort of being taken care of by my parents. As I eased into the warm, easiness of teenagerhood, the break was over as the return to the independence of college life awaited. That was when missing home began in my case, second semester of freshman year.

Nostalgia manifests itself slyly at first, until it becomes unavoidable. In the way that smelling the scent of an old partner’s perfume brings back a wave of conflicting emotions, recalling any miniscule reminder of home brought on a similar effect. Soon enough, I was begging my mom to send me a box full of guava-flavored jam, which she knowingly labeled my “nostalgia craving.” She described this feeling as something that wasn’t your favorite

Missing home provokes different emotions for each person. For me, it’s an onset of pregnancy-strength cravings for foods that I didn’t even like before, but somehow remind me of home now. One of these cravings is green grapes, which weren’t even a staple of Ecuadorian food at all — they are imported from Chile. Nostalgia doesn’t make sense a lot of the time, but nonetheless I went out and bought two bags of seedless green grapes and basked in my green grape bliss. For some of my friends, homesickness was more based on cultural differences, such as missing the mannerisms akin to another country which were strikingly different to those of Americans.

For my group of friends, who are in their majority of Latin American descent, we bonded over genres of music such as salsa, bachata, and reggaeton. These genres range from dance music to being listened to at lunch restaurants regularly. None of us listened to it as much until we got to Chicago, but for me in particular, music was my way of reminiscing over memories with my friends back home, and I have listened to a diverse mix of latin dance music compulsively since I arrived here.

Missing home is a completely normal phenomenon, just as not missing it can be normal too. Either way, with the support of friends, happy distractions, and indulging yourself in the things that remind you of home, it is easily manageable.

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