On Field Day, students’ shirts are adorned not only with dorm names and inside jokes but an array of colorful flags. Looking across the field, one can see Venezuela, Russia, Ecuador, and Kenya—to name only a few. This showcases just one way that Exonians foster their connection to their homes in this new place.
Coming from a big city in East Asia, or a place in the American South or the West, you can find it incredibly difficult to adjust to a small town in New England or life on the East Coast. So it comes as no surprise that homesickness is very common at Exeter. But it’s easy to find a way to show pride in your home and surround yourself with people who empathize with your feelings of homesickness.
Homesickness is nothing to be ashamed of. Most of the students I asked about homesickness told me “No, I don’t feel homesick, I just feel…” and then proceeded to describe to me the symptoms of homesickness. However, admitting to being homesick can be really freeing. Earlier this week, I met someone else from New York and felt an incredible warmth as we laughed about the Mister Softee trucks that were so emblematic of our summers and compared the subway lines from where we lived. Just being able to express “I miss New York” with somebody else who understood exactly what I meant took a weight off my shoulders.
And there are plenty of ways to express how much you love and miss where you come from. Grant Carter, who is from Oklahoma, hangs the flag of Oklahoma above his doorway and over his bed. He happens to be the only student in the summer session from Oklahoma, so he decided to go above and beyond to represent where he comes from. There’s something very special about hearing someone describe where they come from–Grant’s eyes light up and he breaks into a smile when he describes his home state.
Not only is Exeter a great opportunity to share with others how much you love where you come from, it can be really rewarding and touching to hear about how much pride others have in where they come from. Even if you aren’t from the same place, it’s interesting to learn about other people’s origins and comforting to hear them express that they feel same way as you do.
But for some students, self-expression is half the battle. Sofia Sestili, who is from Italy, says that although she is trying her best to speak English, “It’s strange because I haven’t communicated in Italian since I got here. It’s a little bit difficult to express myself so sometimes I feel lost and like I don’t know what I’m saying.”
Some countries have intensely different customs than those of America; In Sofia’s case, mealtime at Exeter is vastly different from her meals at home, where she eats meals divided into courses and puts each dish on its own plate.
Homesickness can be as simple as missing the traditions and norms of where you come from and the fear of making mistakes in a new place. All of those are normal, valid feelings.
Ultimately, what I want you to take away from this article is that the most efficient way to combat homesickness is to talk about it. It can feel like a very isolated emotion that’s embarrassing or stupid or something you should ignore until it goes away. But that’s exactly the opposite of what you should do. In order to fight homesickness, be louder and prouder about where you’re from!