I’ve been in Scotland since 31 August and I’m already feeling like I can carve my name someplace, somehow. The homesickness didn’t really register to me until literally right after I gave my mom a hug goodbye and rolled my way past security check points at the airport. Everyone else (students, travelers, young adventurers) seemed to be fine with leaving, laughing and chatting with each other like the friends they’ve made on the airplane were people they’ve known for years and years. I sort of envied them, especially as I couldn’t seem to stop crying until a week had past since the plane landed in Edinburgh. I’m not a huge crier and couldn’t remember the last time I had actually felt tears before, but being away from home, and remembering how my mother, usually stoic and not privy to painful emotion, cried against my shoulder before I had to let her go.
I didn’t come out to my mother that day, or the next, or the next day after that. It seemed inconvenient in a whirlwind of new sights and sounds. I felt more vulnerable than I had ever been before, and while people around me were fresh to exploring and shopping all I thought about was how I knew I couldn’t let my depression and anxiety overcome me like it did my freshman and sophomore years of college.
Perhaps it was because I felt far too alone in a place that felt vaguely familiar, but had the blaring cultural differences when looking up close. Once I arrived in Glasgow, after staying with a host family, and settling into my day to day life, I was able to feel more balanced. Glasgow would be my home for the next four months, and I already seemed to enjoy staying here than anyplace else that my abroad program showed us. I could finally unpack my suitcase, and unpack some emotion, in a quiet room by myself. Once I was able to make my room my own, and meet my new flat-mates in our hall, I felt more secure. As of today I feel much better than the day I arrived, jet-lagged, in Scotland, and I know that even better days will be ahead.
Once I actually befriended people, both Scottish people and other exchange students, I felt safer in my travels. There were things to do and sights to see, but I never forget the times, while walking home with a new friend, of talking about our families and how we missed them, even when we came from vastly different places. It made me wonder if the people, so outgoing the first day we arrived, we also battling with homesickness, vulnerability, anxiety, or general stress of what would be a genuinely exciting and worthwhile experience.
If you’re queer like me and/or someone who might feel vulnerable in the beginning days when abroad, make sure to book a therapy appointment prior to boarding your plane. It will take so much stress off of you, as it did me, when understanding there is a safety net for days when identity and other disorders could get the best of you.