Yes, being on a year abroad is fun. It's a great experience and I'm learning a lot. But it's also hard. Really, really hard. And a lot of people don't get that. Today I'm feeling homesick and lonely. So here is a list of reasons why, in an attempt to help other people understand that while I do love my time abroad and I'd encourage anyone to take a year abroad, it's not all pancakes and reese's peanut butter cups.
1. Missing out
When I was a kid, I used to hate going to bed because I felt like I was going to miss out on something. Some things never change. I'm constantly afraid of missing out on something and scared to stay in and sleep when I'm tired, or do my homework instead of doing something in case I miss out on something. Being away from home has increased this a million-fold. This time I know I'm missing out on things. In fact, I miss out on everything. This is probably the hardest thing I've had to deal with. My friends are getting on with their lives and I want to be kept in the loop. I know I can't be there but I want to feel as though I am.
2. People genuinely not understanding what you're saying
This is mortifying and has almost reduced me to tears. I had to ask over half a dozen times if I could borrow a camera. She only understood what I meant when I accompanied it with hand gestures. Click, click.
3.... and you genuinely not understanding what they're saying
Sometimes I just nod and smile; it's just too embarrassing to admit that you had no idea what was just said. There are different words for things here and one word might mean something different. For example, when I said I was "just nipping out", my housemate informed me that this meant I was smuggling peanuts. Great.
4. Speaking two different "languages"
Okay, I know what you're thinking, You're English in America, how difficult can that be? Truth? Very difficult. While at first I was adamant I was sticking to my British speech and words, after a while you're forced to adapt. Autumn becomes fall, shop becomes store. If I use my British words people don't know what I mean (see 2). But the second I use these words when speaking to my friends from home, all hell is let loose. I now have to carefully monitor whether I speak in "English" or "American" depending on who I speak to.
5. People treating you differently when they find out you're "foreign"
Hmm, yeah. Sometimes it's nice. People come over and talk to you because you speak differently. Sometimes it's annoying and condescending. Like being asked if all English girls were like Vicky Pollard.
6. People expecting you to know everything about your country
I have this predominantly in my Shakespeare class. I kinda like being the centre of attention but I am under immense pressure when I don't know the answer. Same in my Intercultural Communications class when I was asked to respond to the idea of England as Imperialist. Erm...
7. Missing your own culture and traditions
Turns out Christmas is very different here. Ham instead of Turkey. No Christmas crackers (I was told they have Christmas cookies, I explained that they were very different). No Slade, or Wizzard or even Band Aid. No mince pies or Christmas pudding. No matter how jet lagged I am on Christmas Day (I get home at 2.30pm Christmas Eve), I am going to appreciate every second of my English Christmas.
8. Making new friends
Despite being an outgoing and (hopefully) quite friendly person, I absolutely suck at meeting new people and making friends. It makes me miss my made-to-fit group of friends from home even more. But if you don't make new friends, you're all alone, and that's even worse.
9. Time differences
I can only speak to my friends and family before 4pm. This gets difficult when I have classes. It's also hard because I tend to get the most down and lonely at night-time, and I can't call my parents at 4am.
10. Lack of instant communication
At uni, I speak to my mum probably 2 or 3 times a day. I just ring her when I want a chat. And I text her and my friends all day. Over here I can only speak to people when I'm at a computer, and when they're at a computer, and time differences (see above), make that even harder to achieve.
11. Exchange rates
SO CONFUSING. I still have to convert everything into pounds to know where I'm up to. And I still never know.
12. How expensive it is
Food is expensive. Postage is expensive. Even with the exchange rate I still feel constantly ripped off. And then there's all the things you have to buy. Bedding, books, mirrors, kitchen stuff... all of which I have at home!!
13. The things you had to leave behind
As you all know, I miss my clothes a lot. But I also miss my book collection (My Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis books especially), my cook books, my Sex and the City box set, the nail varnishes that didn't make the cut... the list goes on.
14. Not being able to come home whenever you want
Although I work every weekend and rarely like to miss work, every 4 or 5 weeks I just need to come home. I just need to. I need some time to chill out and do nothing and have my parents wait on me hand and foot. I love being at home just for a few days to re-cooperate. I miss not being able to jump on a train and in an hour and a half be picked up by my daddy at the station.
15. Knowing that as soon as you get used to it you'll have to come home again.
I'm slowly starting to adapt. And I'm doing okay. I'm starting to appreciate America, but I appreciate England even more. I'm almost able to cross the road without almost getting run over, and I'm getting used to the sweetness of the bread and free-refills in restaurants. I'm getting used to the way people talk and not being understood. I'm getting used to the dollar.
But I know as soon as I feel settled in here, it'll be time to go home again.
An then the reverse culture shock will kick in.