Since the day I landed in India, I’ve been attached to my five news apps. It seems like every 20 minutes or so my phone lights up with another piece of breaking news. Botham Shem Jean was fatally shot in his own home by an off-duty police officer. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford followed by a 50-48 vote confirming Brett Kavanaugh. Hurricane Michael devastated regions of the South and became the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the region. Eleven innocent people lost their lives in one of the deadliest attacks targeting American Jews in Philadelphia as they gathered for worship. Anti-immigrant rhetoric flooded the media as 800 soldiers were deployed to the Mexico and United States border. Midterm elections brought a number of historic firsts into office, including the first female senator in my home state.
Being away from home, you can miss personal events, too. Birthdays, graduations, tragic losses, job promotions, and everything in between can make you miserably homesick. With this sense of homesickness comes loneliness and a weird sense of FOMO — fear of missing out — that you can’t really justify. They warn you before you leave and upon arrival of all the signs of cultural schools and the rollercoaster of emotions that accompany your transition, but I did not expect to feel ALL of them. At some point I would feel angry. The next moment full of joy and in a blink of an eye, just helpless.
Switching between The New York Times, CNN, Facebook, and Snapchat, I began getting so caught up in every other part of the world that I was missing out on my own abroad experience! I think the hardest thing for me to come to terms with is that despite me being gone, life doesn’t stop. The world still turns, people go on to do new things, tragedies happen, and life just goes on. Making sure to not get too caught up in the news and life back home can be a hard thing to do, especially if you are feeling extra homesick. It is especially hard not to dwell on events that directly impact your or the ones you love. It is important to stay in touch with what is going on, but when you start to feel like every headline is going to be the end of the world, it’s time to take a step back.
For me, talking to other students about what was happening really helped me process the slew of news stories and major events. I was able to get different perspectives on topics and vent to people who understood exactly what I was going through. You can also be proactive about some of the events going on back home by letting your voice be heard. Today, getting involved in a cause is just a click away. You can write a post or a tweet and join the conversation from anywhere in the world! Engaging in conversations about issues with students and professors in your study abroad location can give you a more global perspective on events back home. You can donate to people doing the groundwork as well as show your support online. Writing for one your home institution’s publication can give you a platform to express yourself and keep up to date with campus events. One of the most impactful ways to stay involved is to request an absentee ballot and participate in elections! I was able to vote in the midterm elections over 8,000 miles away from my normal polling place after just filling out a couple of forms. Your local politicians are also never more than an email or letter away so don’t be afraid to engage with them even while you are abroad.
Events at home can drastically affect you while studying abroad, even if you are separated by two or more continents! Learning to cope can help alleviate some of the stress anxiety as you learn and grow from a different part of the world.
Guadalupe Mabry is a Public Health and Biology student at American University and studied abroad with IFSA on the Global and Public Health program in Manipal, India in fall 2018. She served as an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-to-Study program.