How would you define homesickness? Is it the feeling of missing your family or friends back where you came from? Is that home to you? Do you miss home often? What is it really? Homesickness can seem like an umbrella term for feelings related to home, nostalgia and missing someone/something. I don’t think I’ve ever seen homesickness as a positive, bright feeling; it usually makes you feel sad and want to go home (hence, the ‘sick’ in homesickness).
Before deciding to take an eight-hour flight to come to the University, I knew one or two things about homesickness and was worried how I would deal with it myself. I come from a relatively large family, so I have heard from elder relatives about what it’s like to live overseas for the first time. Here are two stories: a cousin of mine, who always gave me the impression of being the fierce, strong and brave one, suddenly seems like a timid girl who deeply wants to return home as much as she can. My godmother who went to Japan to study, then became a citizen there, returns back to Malaysia once every year. Before leaving for Japan, she spent her last day holed up in our house, crying and unsettled to leave. Hearing stories like these made me wonder, will I become like this too?
From my experience of living in the U.K. for the third year now, I can understand how my godmother feels whenever I depart from my family at the airport. It also left me pondering on the unforeseen possibilities that can happen at home when I’m not there – what if something bad happens and I can’t be home? What will I be missing out on? I’m quite the over-thinker and that makes me worry easily about trivial things, however I soon realised my parents must have the same concerns for my own safety and health as well. It’s unnecessary to think of unfortunate things that haven’t happened yet; it will just bring you down.
Upon arriving here, I will probably spend the first week unpacking and missing home (home, as in my family, friends, the different food I’ve been munching on before leaving and places I go to!). Eventually, it mellows out because I think of my accommodation here and St Andrews as my second home – this is most likely due to the brainwashing of my primary and secondary school staff that told students in assembly of how the school was our second home. I start to think of anywhere I spend most of my days as my home now (weird to say, but even a shopping mall my family frequently go to feels like a home to me).
That’s not the only times I feel homesick, of course. I feel it when I watch local Youtubers from my country or when I’m facetiming my family. The strangest homesick experience I get is when I wake up to the deception that I am back home, waking up to the noises of my mom cooking downstairs and sounds from the TV, the sun is shining so bright, I got my aircon… but in reality, I was just waking up to feeling the cold air of St Andrews with the window next to my bed bringing in sunlight. Interestingly, this only happens during the time of the year when Chinese New Year is here, just a short, vivid moment before I return to the cold reality. I appreciate that moment though, because I was lucky enough to experience that short feeling ‘at home’ even here.
I guess I will draw an end to this article now, because homesickness isn’t something people talk lightly about. It’s a very heavy feeling, and even hearing people talk about home can make you feel homesick. However, before I go, let me leave you with a question – do you have one thing at home that you always feel like bringing to St Andrews but when it comes to packing, you never bring it with you because you want to keep it specially at home? I got one – my bolster pillow.