I debated about writing this entry for a while. For the past five years (nearly six this September!), I’ve attempted to keep my personal life out of this blog. You all are here to see what an experience at Holy Cross is like, not to hear me complain about the small things in my life. However, I think that this post is appropriate since it addresses a critical element of the Study Abroad experience – homesickness.
During my year abroad and this past year, a lot of people asked me if I ever got homesick. And sure, there were days that I wanted to be home – Thanksgiving, my family’s birthdays, random days that I had nothing in my pantry and I needed a quick dinner. But I didn’t spend the first few weeks pining for my family – I was happy to be abroad. Just see how I skipped to the plane to London after Christmas Break (my mom still gets upset at me about that one). I’ve never really been ‘homesick’, I guess. Maybe that’s because I’m as happy as a clam with my life in Oxford. Sure, there are times that it’s tough – I wish I could see my Holy Cross friends more often, I wish that I could just take a two hour flight home, I wish I could be there for every big moment in all of my family members’ lives.
But I think the first time that I experienced true homesickness was this summer, specifically at the end of July, when my grandfather passed away. I was lucky enough that my I was able to see him just a few days before he passed away, since I was in Boston for a week in mid-July. When I was there, he was enthusiastic about my studies at Oxford and kept asking questions about my manuscripts and what I plan to do with this degree. I really do cherish those conversations, since we both knew that was probably going to be the last time that I saw him. He knew it, I knew it – but neither of us addressed it openly. Instead, he made sure that I knew he was proud of what I was doing, and that he knew why I had to be away in Oxford and contactable primarily only through letters (Papa wasn’t always great on the phone, especially if you interrupted his naps!).
So, when everything happened in the last week of July, I just sat in Oxford, helpless. It was the first time that I regretted my decision to live in Oxford. Literally, the only thing that I could do was go to Mass. It was tough to know that I would miss the wake and funeral of the man that I admired so much, the man who really first introduced me to the Jesuits (my grandfather went to BC in the early fifties). But, again, he knew why I was here instead of there, and he supported me chasing my dreams. A few other things have happened in the family since then, and it’s tough to just watch everything from afar and be of no help. During times like these, the study abroad experience gets tough. I’ve felt extremely selfish – I’ve been playing with manuscripts and researching in pubs whilst my family is burying my grandfather and another family member is battling cancer. But, I’m extremely lucky in that all of my family and friends know that it’s vital for me to be at Oxford – they might not know exactly what I do, but they still know it’s important to be here. I just keep coming back to one sentence that my grandfather said during my brief visit. ‘I don’t really know what you do, Colleen,’ he started, ‘but your eyes light up whenever you talk about it.’ And that’s really what gets me through the periods of homesickness.