The Tab’s guide to dealing with Homesickness as an international Cambridge student
Homesick? During my time at Cambridge? It’s more likely than you think
Flashback to August 2020 and I’m back at home baking in the Queensland sun, sipping iced tea, reading. Might watch a YouTube video or two, might slap on some thongs (AKA flip flops, don’t worry we’re keeping it PG13) and head to the movies with my friends, before Dad cooks steak on the barbie for dinner. No responsibilities, no lectures, no national lockdown – just me and the kookaburras who live in the backyard.
Fast-forward to today and here I am, sitting alone at my desk in my nearly-deserted college, unable to fly back to Australia. Work is piling up, it’s freezing outside (but not even snowing, which is outrageous), the shops are closed, and the buttery is serving turkey korma for the fifth time this week. Just to feel even more sorry for myself I check Instagram and see all my friends back home, partying together at the beach.
Trust me; I actually love the cold weather and am generally quite introverted, but this pandemic has been subpar to say the least and even I’ve been getting more and more homesick as the days go by. No doubt my fellow internationals who’ve been stuck in Cambridge over Christmas feel the same way.
That being said, these stabs of homesickness don’t last forever, and I’m taking all I can get from my time here at Cambridge. And at the end of the day, there’s no place I’d rather be. So without further ado, here are some things to remember when you want to remedy those bouts of missing home:
The internet is your friend
You may not be able to go home, but thanks to the internet, you can always bring little snippets of home to you. If you miss your family, call them. If you miss your friends, call them. Of course, working around time zones and packed schedules is easier said than done, and talking online isn’t remotely the same as meeting face-to-face, but even a quick FaceTime home can settle my mood for the rest of the day.
When cut-glass Cambridge accents are just too much to take, I’ll watch some Summer Heights High or listen to Triple J. And when I’m craving red meat, I’ll head to Mainsbury’s, grab the best slab of steak or lamb chops I can find, and cook it. Basically, I’ve realised that a lot of the things I miss about home (apart from the warm weather and Vegemite) actually exist in the UK too. What a concept!
Be careful, though, not get too sucked into your old life. Over-reminiscing just makes you feel worse and you might forget that, actually, Cambridge is really lovely in itself. And I don’t know who needs to hear this, but I *really* don’t recommend bringing out the thongs in this grim January weather.
Cambridge is actually quite beautiful
Another obvious point, yes, but it’s shocking how easily desensitised we are to being at one of the best universities in the world. While this lockdown gig isn’t exactly the classic Cambridge Experience, getting to live in a historic university town whose centuries-old buildings prove a popular day-trip tourist destination is still a privilege in itself – at least, it’s part of why I came here anyway.
So make the most of these deserted streets and rediscover just how gorgeous they are. I promise Cambridge will never be this quiet again, so appreciate before the hordes of tourists return. As Ferris Bueller once said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Walking past Corpus Christi last week I saw a family in a horse-drawn carriage. That’s something you don’t get in suburban Brisbane.
There is also more to Cambridge than Market Square and King’s Parade
Beautiful as it is, sometimes I just don’t want to be in Cambridge; I don’t want to feel like I’m at university 24/7. I miss being able to walk outside and not see anyone I recognise.
This problem is easily solved, though, as a short 20-minute walk from the town centre can take me places where I am completely anonymous. Mill Road, Grantchester, Fen Ditton, the Grafton Centre – all normal places where you won’t see a college puffer on every second person. The Cambridge Bubble is bright and busy but it is also small, and venturing outside of it will do you some good.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side
This is literally the case where I’m from. In fact, the grass in Brisbane is almost always brown because it’s just so bloody hot all the time. This is just one of the things I seem to forget about when I’m reminiscing the good old days back home.
One sure-fire way to dampen homesickness is to think; was I really having the time of my life before? I like to remember the unbearable humidity, the buggering mozzies, Dad’s loud chewing noises at the dinner table, Mum’s pestering, brothers leaving the toilet seat up, the fact that everything in Australia is just so far away. Not to mention, if I was back home right now, that would mean that I hadn’t got into Cambridge!
Whilst many people are itching to get back here, being stuck in Cambridge indefinitely isn’t exactly ideal either. It’s only normal to be feeling homesick right now, so there’s no need to feel weak or ungrateful – just remind yourself why you’re here, make the most of what you’ve got, and I promise it’ll get better.
Feature image credits: Imogen Scott