If you are considering studying abroad, I would advise you to take note of the little things that stand out in your foreign country. It can be very tiring to be away from your home, and little things that would never occur to you might start creeping up on a mounting list of reasons why you silently long for the comfort of your own country. That is not to say that you will overwhelmingly homesick, but you may start to miss certain things you did not even know made a difference. I was introduced to this feeling on a smaller scale when I little, going away to camp. There I missed home because it was the familiar, but I knew that I was only a car drive away. At college, I am a flight away, but Massachusetts hardly feels as different from Chicago as Spain. Being abroad, I miss the obvious things a great deal, like my family, friends, and my own language, but there are also a number of things that one might not think would cause homesickness.
So here are some of the things that I miss, that you might not expect. For one thing, I miss not using an adapter on my phone and computer chargers. It might seem trivial, but constantly worrying about what charger you need to use can be wearing. Spain uses a different charger from America, which uses a different charger from the United Kingdom and Ireland. As you can imagine, traveling can be a hassle if you do not know which adapter to bring when making your way to a new country, and God forbid you forget the adapter on a trip, because not being able to charge your phone is an easy way to get lost. Furthermore, the constant presence of an adapter has started to bend and twist my American chargers. What will break first, my charger or my temper?
I miss American dollars. It is fortunate that Euros and dollars are roughly equal in value, meaning the mental conversion is not that bad, though I must also consult currency values before withdrawing money, to make sure I am getting a good deal. Also, whenever I make a charge with my credit card, I am charged a foreign transaction fee, which can add up when purchasing flights. It will be nice to not have to factor that in when I return. Perhaps most trivial of all, but by far the most frustrating, is the fact that Euros do not fit in my wallet. Dollars fit perfectly, but I suppose my American wallet was not designed to fit European currency, which has bills that vary in size according to value. It can be quite frustrating when each of my bills are frayed and ruined on the edges because of this inconvenience.
Lastly, I miss the not having easy access to the little things I so often took for granted at Holy Cross. I need a stapler for my essay? Oh, I guess I need to wait until tomorrow to see if there is one at school. I need tape, scissors, or a three-hole punch? I better hope my host parents have them, because if not I am certainly out of luck. There is just no certainty that the things I will need for an assignment will be available, and I miss the ease of that access from Holy Cross. Along similar lines, printing papers can be complicated, as I do not want to use up all of my host parent’s ink and paper. Though these little problems are easy to overcome, and are obviously not the largest burden one can endure, they certainly take a toll on a person after many months. While frayed Euros and lack of tape are not reasons for me to wish for a speedy departure, there are some small reasons to look forward to reentering what now seems like a former life, with plentiful stocks staples and compatible outlets.
James O'Connor '18