Keeping in touch, homesickness, and the awesomeness of IFSA!
Now that you’re on the ground, how has the adjustment affected your family/friends at home? Are you in frequent contact (and if so, what do you use for communication)? How are you confronting/handling homesickness?
Moving to college three years ago really changed my family dynamic. I wasn’t around so we communicated by phone and, since I was only 60 miles away; it was easy enough to pick me or to ride a bus back home for a visit. Being on a different continent, it was fairly interesting how my parents and I would catch up almost every other day when I first arrived (which has tapered off lately, as we become more comfortable and there are not as many new things to share). Before I left I made sure to teach my technologically-challenged parents how to use the computer for Skype purposes. And of course, most of my friends have and know how to use Skype, so it’s definitely one of my main tools for keeping in touch with my loved ones back in the US. Also, Facebook has been great, since people will post updates about their lives without me having to ask, I can still feel somewhat “in the loop”, and the chat feature has been marvelous.
A week before departure I invested in an iPad, and I have never regretted it since arriving here. A lot of people I’m close to use Apple products and a great feature about a number of them is FaceTime. It’s an Apple version of Skype. And also useful has been that I can text message people who have iPhones from my iPad using their messenger. Also great for keeping in contact has been a texting app I downloaded from Apple’s App Store. It assigned me a US-phone number that I can use to text other US-phone numbers – for free! It also gives me the option to buy minutes to be used to make phone calls, which has been really convenient because it lets me get in contact with my parents through their cell phones and they don’t necessarily have to be signed into Skype.
The tricky part about all of the means listed above is that they are entirely dependent on an internet (specifically WiFi for the iPad) connection, and preferably a good one. But it’s not terribly difficult to find WiFi, the IFSA office has it available, and so do most cafes and restaurants.
I have written quite a few postcards, but since my internet driven technology is obviously preferred for more urgent or simply quicker conversations, they’ve mostly been just a way of sending a small souvenir to loved ones back home. Who doesn’t like getting [good, which is to say not bills] mail?
I get homesick quite a bit. A lot of the time it’s just little things that will remind me of home and make me nostalgic and wish I could be back. What I do in light of being homesick depends on what kind of homesick I am. I usually will combat it by getting in touch with a loved one, with a call, a message, or whatever, just letting someone know I miss them and have them give me some words of comfort. Other times I talk to other IFSA students who are here with me, and go through homesickness too and so we have conversations that may vary from encouraging each other to just a vent session to let it all out.
I’ve noticed I have some moments where I yearn for home, not necessarily because I truly want to be there, but because I feel overwhelmed by what I’m facing here. Like what happened to me a couple weeks ago. I had gotten into an argument with my host mother the night before, and didn’t sleep at all that night because of it. The next morning I had an immigrations appointment and it was a very stressful and long process, only to arrive 3/4s of the way and be rejected because I had the wrong paperwork. I made my way to the IFSA office to let them know about my rejection and I ended up having a breakdown. One of the staff members took me aside, gave me tissues, heard me out and gave me advice. It was great being able to let out all the frustration I was feeling over the disagreement with my host mom, and learn that redoing the immigrations appointment would not be difficult, and that there was an empty room in the office where I was welcome to take a nap. The points about this story that I want to leave you with are: 1) If you are having issues with your host family, IFSA has ways to help you. Ranging from simply hearing you out, to sitting down with you and your host family to problem resolve, and switching host families entirely. 2) IFSA staff in the Buenos Aires office are fabulously helpful, and the office itself is a great resource for a number of different things. From free WiFi, to study spots, and places to nap. 3)I feel it’s important to know why you’re homesick. In this case, I wasn’t necessarily homesick because I wanted to be home. I was homesick because I was frustrated with what was happening here and I simply wanted to be in a setting where I know how things work. In this case, combating homesickness came in the form of advice, reassurance and a nap. Thanks IFSA!
Overall, I keep in fairly frequent contact with the friends and family back home. It’s definitely not as close as when I was home, but it’s still been enough to keep me and the relationships going. I definitely recommend a Tablet also because it’s powerful enough to use for a number of different tasks, but it’s small enough to fit into a medium sized purse so you don’t seem obvious carrying around electronics (safety and keeping your belongings safe is a huge concern here, so the discretion of a tablet is marvelous!). I get homesick a lot, but it isn’t crippling, and it subsides quickly enough. There are so many ways to move past it, and I just keep in mind that once I leave I won’t be able to come back for a long time, so I need to make the most of it and appreciate it while I can.