“You WILL get homesick. Don’t worry though, it’s completely normal- you’d be weird if you didn’t.”
Or so we were told, repeatedly. By family and friends, teachers, tutors, study abroad officers, next-door neighbours, their gardener, strangers on the street. Everyone and their cat was convinced that they knew what we’d go through and how we’d feel;
“after you get over the honeymoon period, you will experience a downer- a result of the culture shock, missing home and life as you know it. It’s called the ‘culture shock W curve.”
Apparently, the “Culture Shock W Curve” is not based on scientific fact. I was completely expecting get a little bit homesick at some point, but the truth is that four months in and one-and-a-half left to go, the “inevitable” wave of homesickness is remaining as elusive as ever.
I think this is partly thanks to the overwhelming amount of social media that is available to people nowadays. The constant pictures, quotes and general online chit-chat provides an immediacy such that home never seems too far away. I laugh reading my friends’ day to day statuses, and I love that I can see how fast my beautiful nephews and nieces are growing up through my siblings’ instagrams.The other day I was able to facetime my best friend, over 5000 miles away and 8 hours ahead, completely spontaneously from a Frat Party- just because I felt like a chat.
It’s a double edged sword though, the world of social media. I am sure anyone who has studied or lived abroad will understand the conflicting emotions when you suddenly see or hear something which reminds you of home. It’s like deja vu, a fleeting snapshot, a blast from the past. You may be able to contact your friends and family at the touch of a button, but you are simultaneously bombarded with constant snapchats of empty boxes of cadbury’s chocolate fingers, instagrams of friends at Nandos, barrages of outraged tweets lamenting the latest Made in Chelsea scandal. Things that you never thought you’d miss provide a bizarre wave of nostalgia. It all got a bit too emotional when I got an email from Topshop saying they were offering free UK delivery which I couldn’t take advantage of.
Anyway, the reason I’ve been so busy for the past week or so is because home came to me- for real this time.
On Thursday I travelled across the Nor-Cal suburbs, on my way to San Francisco airport to surprise my parents, who had come to visit. Seeing the shock on my parents faces (my Dad likes to pretend that nothing fazes him) I realised how lucky I was that they were able to put the time, money and effort into visiting me.
Aside from love and support, parents come with an assortment of perks; paid-for meals, cocktails at dinner time and the rented SUV in which we spend our Easter weekend exploring my new home.
Up In The City
Easter itself was spent in my new favourite city: San Francisco. It was a beautiful weekend weather wise, so I was finally able to take a trip to see the Golden Gate bridge in all its glory. Opened in May 1937, the bridge connects San Francisco to the rest of Northern California. It really is a pretty impressive landmark, particularly when driving along it to Sausalito, a quaint, artsy boat town on the other side.
You get a particularly good view of the Golden Gate from Alcatraz, the island 1.5 miles offshore from SF which was once home to up to 300 of the most notorious criminals. I’d definitely recommend the Alcatraz tour to any visitors to Northern California, if only to experience the bizarre juxtaposition between the beautiful scenery and the rather ugly, if fascinating, history. You’ll be walking amongst the flowers and endangered birds and then suddenly remember that you are in what used to be a high security prison. After escaping in land, we stopped off to look through Ghirardelli square, taking true advantage of all the free chocolate which was on offer for Easter weekend.
Along the Coast
Going down the 101 south we spend a windy day discovering the bays of Monterey and Carmel. The Fishermans Wharf at Monterey is a bright and cheerful pier, sort of like Whitby except with Clam Chowder instead of Fish and Chips and Salt Water Taffy instead of Rock. It’s a nice place for a bike ride or simply to look along the coast. There are several whale-watching opportunities but if you don’t fancy the boat rides then you can see loads of seals lounging about on the rocks closer to land. Carmel is a bit more upmarket, a really beautiful white sand beach surrounded by quirky, fairytale houses.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
San Jose has been as eventful as ever what with classes, homework, parties and trips to the mall (hallelujah for the student loan). Disneyland Adventure Resort got some serious competition the other weekend when some of our fraternity friends hosted a disney themed party at their house. Although exciting, this provided us with a very serious dilemma. All thoughts of studying were put on hold as we decided what to wear. Jasmine is overdone, Belle gets boring. Pocahontas is good but quite a lot of effort and if you go as Jane from Tarzan it just gets awkward when everyone asks who you are. To make the task even trickier, my two best friends and I all wanted to go as the same thing- we’re the Brits after all, and as everyone here knows by now, we come as a package. Our dilemmas were solved by a shop called Hot Topic, a pretty awesome store out here which does specialised clothing from films, songs and general pop culture. It’s like an alternative disney store for adults. It was here, on a spontaneous trip to Valley Fair that we discovered these rather spectacular snapbacks.
which is pretty much our whole disney party summed up in one photograph.
So we went as minions, and applauded ourselves for our hilarity and genius. And yes, before you say it, we know that Despicable Me is Universal rather than Disney. We decided to live life on the wild side. The guys did a stand up job at decorating the house, although right now i’m 90% sure all that remains from the party is the toy simba dangling from the courtyard balcony (a recreation of the scene from A Circle of Life). Pretty much every wall got repainted and cartoon characters adorned every inch of space. Apparently the ability to copy well known disney characters is a highly respected quality in a Fraternity boy. Who knew?
We had a great night, made ten times funnier by the fact that we were running around in Minion hats and braces. There aren’t very many parties where you see Aladdins dancing with Ariels, Minions taking selfies with the Hunchback of Notre Dame or people attempting to take photographs with a life-size paper drawing of Grandpa from Up.*
I will forever and always call Britain my home. No matter how good my American accent gets (it’s coming along nicely- or so I tell myself) I will be a London/Yorkshire girl at heart. I have an unconditional love for tea, I wear hoodies, not sweatshirts and under no circumstances will I ever call crisps “chips”. I’m not even a massive fan of gravy back home, but when Alice, Becky and I used the granules Alice’s mum had sent in a care package to make veggie bangers and mash the other night (followed by apple crumble and ice cream, naturally) all three of us shared a sneaky tear of joy.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that, no matter how far away you are, you can always find something to remind you of home.
*yes it was me. and yes, I failed epically.