I’ve just finished up my third month in India, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it! It seems that only last week I was getting lost on my way to class or worrying about getting to the grocery store. In the rush of classes, music lessons, homework, tutoring, travelling, shopping and general exploring, it seems the time has just flown by! That’s one of the benefits of having a packed schedule: you don’t have time to think about the things that might otherwise creep in.
I’m talking about homesickness, something that has slowly been fighting its way into my thoughts. For the first month here, my program (CIEE) kept us busy with tours, lectures, trips and activities. The next month was full of academic obligations, and focusing on schoolwork took up a lot of energy. It was only a few weeks ago that I got my first pangs of homesickness. From what I can tell, many of my fellow students are feeling the same way. Considering the novelty of being in India, the heavy academic workload, the wanderlust and even the weight of the summer heat, it’s no wonder that homesickness would set in with just one month to go.
The funny thing about being homesick is that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it makes me feel a bit blue. For me, being homesick means not being able to enjoy the snow back home or cuddle with my dog. It means not being able to wear shorts on a hot day or bake cookies on a lazy Sunday (my host mom doesn’t have an oven). Little things make me miss home more than ever.
But there came a point when I understood that missing home isn’t the end of the world. It hurts, but it’s important to remember why you came here in the first place. In my case, I wanted a new perspective on how people live. Indian culture has always been a part of my life, but I wanted to experience it from the inside. It was a tough choice to make, but I knew that being immersed in the culture would be a positive experience.
Even if I’m feeling blue, I try as hard as I can to make the most of the time I have left in this beautiful country. Visiting different cities has been a big part of this, since the process of travelling is enough to keep my mind in the present. In particular, I really enjoy riding on trains. They’re not very comfortable for sleeping, but watching the Indian countryside pass by the windows is really calming. I’m struck by the sheer diversity of India, in terms of climate, wildlife, language and culture. Being in constant wonder leaves little time for feeling sad. In fact, it makes me want to go out and explore even more.
I think that’s one of the most important things to grasp, especially during an extended trip. Homesickness does set in, but it opens doors to new experiences. The last time I felt a strong bout of homesickness coming, I went for a bike ride around campus. I biked for about an hour and ended up on the opposite side of campus, which I had never seen before. It felt unfamiliar but kind of exciting, like discovering a new world (or just the Mathematics Department… either way, it was cool!). The physical activity helped as well, as I find that I am generally happier when I exercise. By the time I got back to my room, I was exhausted but much more content.
Another instance was last month. Along with being quite homesick, I was getting tired of hanging around Hyderabad for so long. A couple friends felt the same way, so we decided to have a change of scenery. We travelled to Bangalore (the capital of Karnataka) to see Norah Jones perform on her first Indian tour. The trip relieved the homesickness because Bangalore is a lot more cosmopolitan than what we were used to in Hyderabad. There were a lot of Americans there, so we had a chance to spend time with people who understood our situation. Underneath the experience was the feeling of a different India as well. It wasn’t so rigid in its culture or customs, but allowed a flow of influences to go between it and Western cultures. I feel like this is what more and more Indian cities are becoming. Needless to say, this little excursion left us refreshed and ready to take on Hyderabad anew.
India is an amazing place, but that doesn’t always stop sadness from settling in every once in a while. However, this doesn’t have to derail your experience! Use moments of uncertainty to propel you forward, to discover new things and push yourself beyond your limits. If I were perfectly content this whole time, I don’t think I would have learned nearly as much about others and myself as I have. As you can see in the pictures I’ve included, there is so much beauty to experience in India. Keep your eyes and mind open, and your time here will be every bit as amazing as you wish. I know I’ll be doing the same and keeping you posted along the way.