By Eleanor Gaskill-Jones, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, USA
It’s no secret that one of the hardest things about studying abroad is the homesickness; it’s one of the first things the Go Abroad team warned us about as we prepared our applications.
No-one thinks it will happen to them, and I certainly didn’t. I’m a big girl, I thought, as I packed my life into 2 suitcases and waved goodbye to a grey Manchester Airport Terminal 2. The sight of the Manhattan skyline as we landed into Newark Airport smugly reassured my confidence, and I was certain I could handle being 3357 miles from home. How hard could it be? It’s only America, they speak English and have the same TV shows as us!
How wrong I was.
You know you’ve been humbled when you’re crying watching adverts for Lloyds TSB bank on the break in Gogglebox, or stumbling around Walmart bewildered by hundreds of strange brands but none that you like. Homesickness is real people! However, I’ve found a few ways to make bring a slice of home to New Jersey.
My parents have sent me emergency rations of British snacks and chocolate. By chance, my roommate is another British exchange student from a UK university, so having someone to share British music with helps (but we can’t quite convert Americans to Stormzy yet). This also means that we have a second source of British food from her parents; including Bisto gravy granules, stuffing mix and M&S roastie seasoning. This allowed us to make our first roast dinner in months, which brought tears to my eyes.
Another remedy for my homesickness has been music and TV. While obviously American culture tends to dominate a lot of the UK, taking pleasure in uniquely British entertainment has really improved some grey days. As I previously mentioned, with the help of a cheap VPN I’ve managed to keep up with British TV like Gogglebox and Strictly Come Dancing, stuff I ordinarily would take for granted and forget to watch. Music-wise, a hidden gem for anyone studying abroad anywhere is watching your favourite artists from home in your host country. Since being in the US, I’ve seen London born (and current Mercury Prize winner) Arlo Parks in Brooklyn, which was an amazing experience in terms of location and music. I also have tickets to see a band from Wrexham, North Wales, who I grew up listening to, at a venue 6 miles from my New Jersey accommodation, which makes me feel right at home.
Small things like some Cadbury’s chocolate or some British Saturday night TV might seem insignificant, but they’ve really helped me feel at home, and remind me that the UK will always be there for me to come back to.