When I made the decision to study abroad I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy transition. I am a homebody who has never lived more than a few hours away from my family. My first few weeks at college back home were spent calling home basically every free minute I had.
My family is my support system. Being away from them, especially for the first time, was jarring to say the least. I was able to adjust and find people at school who helped me through my homesickness. But, the idea that if I needed my family they were just a phone call away was very comforting to me. Even though the first few weeks were hard, I was able to get into a rhythm with college life. I realized that living on my own, although scary at first was very manageable. There were some tools I used to help me feel more prepared for adulthood. I made lists to plan out my day and I found things to help me destress like listening to music or watching TV; things to keep my mind from thinking about home.
Now flash forward two years and I am on my way to Scotland to study for four months. My family would now be a whole ocean and a seven hour plane ride away. I was nervous about how I would handle the transition to a new country. The first few days were especially rough. Everyone was moving in with the help of their families and I was all alone. Seeing all the mothers and fathers smiling with their kids as they hung up posters and put comforters on their new beds made me feel more isolated than ever. And the worst part about this was that I couldn’t even call my parents because they were fast asleep. The time difference is one of the biggest hurdles to get past when moving to a different country.
I was now cut off from my parents and the support crutch that I had grown accustomed to having with me. But that’s exactly what calling home to my parents is: a crutch. As much as it makes me feel better to hear their voice, calling every hour of the day doesn’t help me adjust to a new environment. In fact it does the complete opposite. I was so focused on home that I was starting to miss out on all the fun opportunities my university set up for welcome week. I am not saying that you shouldn’t call home. But, calling home too much can hold you back from truly immersing yourself in a new chapter of your life.
Putting myself out there
For example, on one of my first nights here there was a meet and greet in the accommodation I’m staying in. My first thought was to skip and call my parents. This was particularly tempting because the event was happening during a time when my parents would be free to call. However, I forced myself to go out and meet new people. This was the best decision I made. It led me to making some awesome new friends and to realizing that I can get by on my own without falling back on what’s comfortable.
Relying solely on my parents made it seem like I wasn’t capable of making it on my own. However, by implementing the tools I learned from freshman year of college and stepping outside my comfort zone to meet new people I found an inner strength that helped me see I was more than ready to embark on a semester abroad. I now have a new support system of friends who join me in exploring Scotland. They help keep me busy so I am not constantly thinking about home. This experience has taught me to not be afraid to embark on new adventures on my own. I also realized that even though my parents will always be there for me, I can get by on my own.
Hannah Marino is a History major at Colby College, Maine and studied abroad with IFSA at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland in Fall 2019. She is a recipient of the IFSA First Generation College Student Scholarship.