Many would agree that one of the hardest adjustments of coming to the land of dreams for college is being here without your family. Of course, starting over in a very new culture is the first thing that hits you. For me, all of a sudden my morning rutis (flour tortillas) and alu bhaji (spiced potato frittery-things) were replaced with a bagel and cream cheese. I found myself leaving for the day and walking through rather empty roads than sitting in my car for hours in traffic ogling at crowds of people struggling to get into a bus.
A few months in and there comes the homesickness. I miss my family and friends—collectively of course. I miss fighting with my sister about borrowing (stealing) her top for the night. I miss hating someone nagging me to eat my breakfast. I miss the thrill of hanging out with my friends past curfew. I think about all these restrictions I had living at home and suddenly realize it all made sense.
A year goes by, two even, and I’ve gotten used to it all. I crave for that morning coffee and I wake up just in time to get the fried eggs in the caf. I think about ruti and alu bhaji sometimes, but the struggle of having to wake up and make it on my own makes it a little less appealing. I still call my parents quite often. I realize slowly but surely that I miss them the most. I miss all that nagging and all the advice they had to give me, which a few years ago seemed like a list of jargon. But now they start making sense. I realize how easy it was to take them and their presence for granted… how easy it was to just cuddle up close to my mom while she watched TV and just be careless—annoying her just because it was fun to see how she reacted… having my dad treat me like a baby and even make the baby voice—such a normal part of my daily life. I consulted with them when I made every decision, big or small, and just had them there for it all.
I meet a lot of people who think it’s just quite absurd that I call my mom almost every day. Somehow (and many of my South Asian friends will agree) the culture of ‘moving out’ of your parents nest when you enter adulthood is something that is NOT going to become a thing for me. In most parts of South Asia, you keep relying on your parents until you realize that it’s time they start relying on you. There is never going to be a time where you will be alright imagining a life without them. You’ll think about your career, your hopes, and your future but always imagine them to be a part of it. It’s not absurd, at least not in my world.
It’s when you realize that you are missing so many days of their lives, days that turn into months and years, and you are just not there for it. You are finally ready to be friends with them and have them see who you’ve become, except they are missing out on it too. You start to realize that they are getting pretty old and you just aren’t there for them. And all of this just becomes a part of THIS college experience—a series of mixed feelings of realization, maturity, and helplessness combined with never-ending love and gratitude. You aren’t sad or depressed, you are happy and content with your life. But you know the homesickness is there. You aren’t really over it, but it’s a little better because you’ve accepted it. As an international student your new home is in you—it’s portable. It’s your memories, your long phone calls with family, your experiences (the old and new) and your morning cravings of ruti and alu bhaji. All of this is normal, at least I’d like to believe so.
-A very homesick Clarkie, Suaida Firoze