Before I got on that plane last week and flew to Germany, I was terrified. Not because of anything in particular, other than my recollection of the terrible adjustment period I experienced last time I was in Germany.
My girlfriend had already been studying abroad for three months in Ireland, and I had never been outside of the country – other than a few Canadian border cities. I was already experiencing a sense of homesickness due to our separation, which I was able to alleviate through interaction with my family and activities at my university.
But when I landed in Germany – except for the first week, during which my professor drove me and two friends across the country to small, significant towns (and Berlin) – I was alone. I had an apartment to myself (bed, kitchen, bath and all), I knew only the two people I had come to Eichstätt with, and my heart was in Ireland.
Homesickness and the potential for depression are both very real.
That’s part of the reason why I decided I wanted to live in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft, an apartment shared by students) in Tübingen. I knew what it was like to feel alone, entirely. And I wasn’t ready to go through that again.
My adjustment this time has been – so far – much more successful. I was rather anxious to find somewhere to live (which I have, finally!), and that stressed me out in unbelievable ways. But otherwise, I was fortunate to have been put in touch with some very friendly and helpful people by a professor in the states; I found a lovely family outside of Tübingen that has been renting me a room at a daily rate; and I’ve got a couple more weeks where I will be constantly surrounded by others before I finally settle into my room (in a house with some other men).
Still, I’m homesick. Not in the same way I was last time, but still in a way that hurts more than I care to explain. My girlfriend (whose blog about grad school and long distance relationships you can read here) has been incredibly understanding of my move, and she has been a wonderful support through everything. I know this is hard for her, but she’s put her own troubles aside to help me adjust as easily as possible – and I owe her the world for that. She’s really an incredible woman, and I’m an incredibly lucky man. Of course, I do have Christmas and New Year’s to look forward to with her.
Being homesick isn’t necessarily about place, and happiness has less to do with location than it does relationships. Am I happy to be in Germany? Of course! And I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity Fulbright has afforded me. But I know that life would be worthless if not for the relationships I’ve been blessed with and made over the years – from supportive family and amazing friends, to an incredible girlfriend who sacrifices more for me than she probably should.
But in a way, the same reason I experience homesickness is its cure, because I know that all of these people will be there for me today, tomorrow, and in July when I get home (because home is, as the adage and my title go, where the heart is).