As students, faculty, and staff at Kalamazoo College concluded the first three weeks of the 2017-2018 academic year, Friday’s community reflection centered around understanding and dealing with homesickness–- an especially pertinent subject, perhaps, considering the recent enrollment of one of the largest first-year classes in college history.
“Homesickness is not about home – it’s about missing what’s normal and comfortable,” said Elizabeth Candido, College Chaplain and Director of Religious and Spiritual Life at K, in her opening statements. “At its core, homesickness is about the unfamiliar … and if you’ve tried something unfamiliar, you’ve been homesick.”
To demonstrate the universality of the experience, five students from different years and different walks of life spoke on their struggles with homesickness since coming to K. The first was Iffat Chowdhurdy ‘20, a native of Los Angeles, who described missing her family during her first year away from home.
“They were the first thing I thought of when I woke up in the morning and the last before going to bed,” Chowdhurdy said. “I thought I was mentally ready [to leave home], but homesickness hits you like the hiccups – it’s unexpected, and you’re never really sure when it’ll go away.”
Fellow sophomore Ranya Perez shared a similar experience, recounting how she would often be found crying on campus out of homesickness. Likewise, Kaspar Hudak ‘19, who believed all his life that “home is where your mom is,” described “retreating” to his childhood home after classes to the familiar comforts of his dog and his computer games during his first year at Kalamazoo College. Hudak admits, like most everyone he shared the stage with that morning, to crying spells brought on by loneliness in the past – but now, he claims, he cries upon having to leave campus at the end of the school year, at the prospect of homesickness for the place he once needed to “retreat” from.“My current home is Kalamazoo,” he said.
Similarly, Sarafina Milianti ‘18 recounting “crying with my host mom” upon having to return to the United States after studying in Caceres, Spain, despite a rocky start to her time abroad brought on by homesickness. But by throwing herself into life in a foreign country, including “trying new foods” and “dancing in the streets with Spaniards,” she was able to ward off her longing to return home and find a way to be happy right where she was. “Now, I’m kind of homesick for Spain,” she admits.
One of the highlights of the reflection was Mansi Dahal ’20, a native of Nepal, who read an original poem entitled “End Notes on Homesickness.” The poem, describing moments of nostalgia and isolation Dahal felt as a first-year international student, seemed to serve as an example of creating something out of her homesickness. Now, a year later, Dahal has come to terms with her homesickness, even as she has become well-adjusted to life at K.
“I believe I’m always homesick,” she admits, recounting her frustration during holidays in Nepal, thinking of the celebration going on in her home country as she is “running to and from classes” many thousands of miles away. Even so, Dahal keeps it all in perspective, and urges those struggling with homesickness to do the same.
“Just because you miss home doesn’t mean you can’t find another,” she said.