Sophie Morris from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m more than halfway done with this semester and I’m still homesick. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with a super tight family, both immediate and extended, so being so far away from my family and friends has been really difficult. Luckily, though, I have made amazing friends during my time here in Gabs that make it feel like home. The girls on our program this semester are all from different places in the United States (and Guinea, shoutout Tima) but I feel as if I’ve known them forever. When you’re dropped in a brand new place with no concept of the local culture, language, or geography, it’s a bonding experience with your fellow newbies. I’ve also discovered a few things to do that make me feel closer to home.
Home reminder #1: Hang out with friends
I personally was worried about making friends before I left for Gabs because I didn’t want to be stuck in a foreign country with no friends, but I should have known that anyone adventurous enough to do this program would be relatively like-minded to me. The girls I have met on this program are wonderful and each of them have something about them that remind me of a friend at home. I have made friends that I can tell anything to; we laugh and cry together as if we’ve known each other for years and I can confidently say that I will stay friends with them for years and years to come. Sometimes, all you need is a hug from a friend to make you feel right at home.
Home reminder #2: Traveling
As weird as this may sound, traveling on my weekends and breaks from school as helped me feel more at home. I’ve found that while they definitely vary in size, amenities, and bathroom cleanliness, airports around the world are pretty standardized. I can close my eyes in just about any airport around the world, hear the noises around me (the whoosh of the plain, the rolling of a maintenance cart, babies crying, people speaking all different languages) and feel like I’m right at home This small comfort is nice in and of itself, but thinking “I’m almost home!” when I’m headed back to Gabs after a long weekend of travel makes me realize that Gabs really is my home this semester and that I appreciate having it to come back to more than I realize. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and I’ll admit that that goes for a sense of home too.
Home reminder #3: Eat familiar foods
Growing up in a big Italian family, I was always taught that food is love. Don’t get me wrong, I love trying new foods (and Batswana food is doooope), but sometimes I just have a craving for the familiar. We discovered a little cafe called The Daily Grind (it’s right by Main Mall, Bethel knows where it is) that serves some of the best bougie toasts, smoothies, and lunches I’ve ever had. Even little things like a simple lunch out with friends or an iced coffee (a rarity here in Gabs) can be so comforting.