The tug-of-war between two homes

Columbia has one of the highest percentages of international students among U.S. universities, and I’m a proud member of that community here.

There are many perks of being an international student—for one, your country and culture are automatic conversation topics. But there’s no doubt that there are some hardships of being an international student, the most famous being homesickness---missing friends, family, the food, and generally the comfort associated with home. While everyone experiences homesickness at some point in college, being an international student exacerbates the situation. Visiting home for a weekend or for shorter breaks is not feasible. Communicating with people back home requires extra effort due to the time zone difference.

Completing my second year as an international student, I can confidently say that I’ve developed mechanisms to cope with homesickness. But at times where the semester is ending, the feeling of homesickness rekindles. Stress accumulated over the semester---topped with approaching final exams and final assignment deadlines---makes it hard not to miss the comfort of being home.

Nazli Tuncer / Spec Nazli Tuncer / Spec

The interesting thing is that this homesickness feeling never goes away completely. When I go home, I miss Columbia, as it has become a home, too. It’s a strange feeling to have two homes.

It’s sometimes problematic, as you can never be 100 percent present or connected. Half the time, you are somewhere else, and while technology—Skype, WhatsApp, etc.—has made it easier, it’s not the same as being together with friends and family.

Discussing this with friends often yields the question, “So where are you happier?” Or, “Where are you going to live after graduation?” It seems that the simplest path would be to make a decision between the two. But it’s too difficult to abandon one half of the picture.

Going back, I get to spend time with my family and friends whom I’ve known since kindergarten, and the comfort and familiarity of that can’t be replaced by my two years of experience at Columbia. But being here has other feelings and memories associated with it, such as becoming independent, forging new connections, and learning to appreciate change and challenges.

While it may seem like I need to make a choice, what I’d like to do in the future is continue going back and forth. The struggle of trying to be fully present in both of my homes will always remain, but I believe that as time progresses I will develop a better way of coping with this situation. The struggle is definitely not strong enough to force me to choose between my two homes, as the picture can never be complete with one half missing.


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