Emma in Euroland

Tea, Cake and Travel: a year abroad in Germany

Homesickness and the Spontaneous Trip Home

My year abroad was something I had been looking forward to for years. Ever since I arrived in Frankfurt, way back in 2007, I had been desperate to spend more time learning about the world and embracing a culture different from my own. The opportunity to take part in a year abroad was a massive motivation for working towards a language degree. As I got older and my year away got closer, I began to understand just how big a thing it was. I was nervous and apprehensive but ultimately excited about the challenges that this year had to offer and the opportunity to have a year learning about another country but also about myself, who I was and what I wanted to be.

A couple of weeks after I arrived, it started to snow. I didn’t have an oven or curtains and I had to get up pretty early for school. I was in Germany though. I was earning a lot of money relative to how much I had to work and my rent was cheap. First, I had my birthday to look forward to and then Ramsey and Christmas. I cannot fault Germany on it’s Christmas effort and it was a pretty magical time, living in an ancient and beautiful city with warm drinks, Christmas markets and so much to look forward to. Skype became a regular installment of my week and my life felt pretty full, in a good way. I had so much to look forward to and I was doing some pretty exciting things that I had never done before.

I went home for Christmas and it was wonderful to just be around all the people I loved again. 3 months had past since I had been home and it was great to recharge my batteries. I came back to Erfurt in January refreshed and ready to enjoy what was ahead of me.

January didn’t greet me in the way I had hoped though. Erfurt was incredibly cold, more so than I remembered, I was sure. It snowed a lot and I spent less time outside. The evening activities I had participated in before Christmas stopped as the darkness and snow were so absolute, it just seemed better to stay inside. A trip to Paris at the end of January to see my Mum was what I held in my mind and I was positive and tried to make the most of the chance to stay indoors without feeling I was missing out and work on the essay I had to submit the day I was going.

Paris didn’t have the lasting effect I had hoped though as very shortly after returning, I fell ill with bronchitis.  I missed two weeks of school and in that time, I barely got out of bed. Once recovered, I had a trip to Prague to enjoy. It was absolutely great, despite the cold and it was an opportunity I just wouldn’t have had if I had been in the UK. However, this combined with doctor’s bills left me in a financial situation which made me feel a little queasy.

I was tired. The novelty of being away had worn off and I hadn’t seen the faces of the people I love for weeks. Both emotionally and physically, I just needed a rest. This came, temporarily, in the form of a trip to Munich. Two university friends who are in Austria came up to Germany and we all spent a long weekend together in the Bavarian capital. It was a great trip and we had a lot of fun. It seemed like I had spent some time with home for a few days.

The thing about homesickness is that it creeps up on you when you least expect it. I was so busy, doing so many exciting things. Why was I wishing that I could just be in my pajamas on the sofa at home with a cup of tea and Doctor Who? Who would honestly trade what I had to just be at home doing something utterly everyday and normal? I told myself I was ridiculous, I couldn’t possibly want that. If I did, how dare I? Most people just don’t have the chance to go and experience a country like I have, to do all the things I have done, to have a year out of the rat race of university and get a chance to recharge before final year.

I was ashamed. I cried in my room for weeks. I became a true Erfurter (excuse the HIMYM reference) and I cried on the tram. I cried walking down the street and in the supermarket. Why was I too ashamed to just admit how I was feeling and accept it? Why didn’t I talk to my friends or my family?

It all seems stupid now. I thought I would be a failure if I went home, if I admitted I was finding it hard or if I said that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I thought I would be selfish if I said that actually, if I could choose I would just go home and that Germany, as great as it is, will never be Britain. Great Britain is so apt a name.

In reality though, wouldn’t it be weird if I didn’t want to go home, even just a little, or if I didn’t hold my own country in higher regard to any other? Anyone can see flaws in their own culture and the beauty of others. That doesn’t mean to say, however, that you will never feel more at home than around those flaws and that despite all the beauty you see, you will always feel a little like an outsider.

On Wednesday, I finally admitted defeat. I called my Mum, barely able to speak and asked if she would mind if I came home. What sort of a question was that? I just needed to hear someone say that it was OK, that I wasn’t a complete failure and that coming home for a couple of weeks was the right thing to do. I booked a flight and came home the next day and I slept for a solid 6 hours on Thursday night. I haven’t slept through like that in a long time.

Here I am, in the middle of the afternoon, in my pajamas in my room with a cup of tea in hand and my cat sleeping at my feet. Well, on my foot in fact, but it’s nice nonetheless. Home is where the heart is but sometimes, you just have to be there too. Am I a failure for finally accepting that? I don’t think so anymore.

I felt so lucky to have the chance to go away for a year, be able to put my life on hold and go off into the world to just discover. I didn’t know what I would find. I know now. The world is great and interesting and there is so much more I want to see and learn. Home is better though and I love my life and the people in it just the way it is. I don’t need more. I just need my family, my friends and my wonderful Rams. I would like tea and queuing too if that’s OK. A creme egg wouldn’t go a miss either ;).

In conclusion, accept homesickness when you feel it for what it is: a sign that your life and the people in it are pretty special. Most importantly, realise that those people are there for you, you are not alone and there is absolutely no need to suffer in silence. Sometimes, everyone needs to just recharge their batteries. Today, I’m recharging mine and honestly, I look forward to going back to Germany, refreshed and ready to enjoy it. I hope you read all about it ;).

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1 Comment

  1. Rachel

    Hey Emma,

    Great blog! It’s making me miss my own year abroad-I did Bogotá and then Turin, Italy and absolutely loved it. I’m now casting for a new MTV documentary about sex and relationships and we’re looking for young people in Germany who would like to take part. I’m wondering if you know anyone who you’ve met along the way who might be interested? Do you have an email where I could send you a bit more information about it?

    Best,

    Rachel

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