I have now been in St Petersburg for almost two months, and after two months of freezing temperatures, slushy snow, and Russian grammar-related headaches, I have reached the point that I think most exchange students can relate to.  The point where this is no longer new and different and exciting.  The point where you miss your family, you miss your car, you miss being able to engage in intelligent conversations.  More than anything, you realize that you miss your way of life.  But before you become either overly concerned or disinterested, fearing this will soon devolve into depressed rantings, allow me a spoiler alert: this is a happy post. 

At first it was difficult to admit to such longings without feeling a bit ethnocentric or even ignorant, but I have realized that this too is part of studying abroad, this too is important, and there is no shame in finding an appreciation for your own culture and way of life.  That is the beauty of study abroad; it enables you to develop a true appreciation and understanding of differing cultures, both foreign and domestic.

Of course, as an exchange student, this process is not always the most enjoyable part of your experience.  At home, it is easy to turn to habitual comforts when you are in a funk, to immeadiately call a friend, visit a favorite retaurant, (or sometimes both simultaneously) to alleviate your melancholy.  Yet when you find yourself far removed from the comforts of home, quite literally a stranger in a strange land, your feelings of isolation are compounded by the fact that you are without your old stand-bys.  You cannot call your friend because it is 3:30 in the morning in the States, and somehow, you have managed to find the one place that Starbucks has not managed to infiltrate.  And suddenly you realize just how much you miss home, and what exactly ‘home’ means. 

I must admit, it wasn’t until I studied abroad in Mexico that I finally began to appreciate what it means to be an American citizen.  And no, I do not mean to suggest that America is superior or that the way of life I am used to living is better than the life I have found abroad.  It is just different.  It is unique.  It is where I feel most comfortable. 

I am pretty sure most exchange students feel this way at one point or another.  maybe I am wrong.  Regardless, I felt that it would be appropriate to mention for those students looking to study abroad.  No, it is not always sunny beaches and incredible food (unless you are in Italy :).  But you have not failed as an exchange student if you find yourself missing home.  Just try and focus on the good things, appreciate the amusing cultural quirks, and realize that six months goes by extremely quick.   I do not for a moment regret the time I spent in Mexico, and I can guarantee I will feel the same about Peter.


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