Tips for Combating Homesickness
- Wear jewelry given to you by a sibling, parent, or significant other. Other people don’t know about it, and you have a little piece of that person with you always.
- Set aside time for your significant other, friend, or family member, whether that time is over Skype, phone, or even just an email to catch up.
- Buy Skype dollars to use for dialing landlines. It’s cheaper than an international phone.
- Bring a childhood stuffed animal.
Mary Hill, a junior vocal performance major, spent the fall semester of 2014 at the Kodály Institute in Kecskemét, Hungary. For four months, Hill took classes and explored Hungary, Paris, Heidelberg, Berlin, Vienna, Prague, and Budapest.
“I knew as soon as I came to college that I wanted to study abroad,” Hill said. “And Capital gave me this great opportunity to do it.”
Hill plans on getting her master’s degree in music theory, and knew that this experience would be beneficial for her graduate school application. The Kodály Institute teaches the Kodály method, which is a different approach to music education.
“There’s also a different approach to critique,” Hill said. “It was very critical but very supportive. I’ve become more driven, and I have a better grasp of my strengths and weaknesses.”
Hill claims that the course work was easier than Capital’s, and her stress levels were generally lower. She attributes the lower level of stress to classes only meeting once a week, and homework mostly centering around practice and cumulative work.
“The way it’s organized, it never felt like a lot,” Hill said.
In her free time, Hill was able to visit places she can only describe as “a fairytale.” Prague was her favorite city, but she fondly remembers a beautiful abandoned castle in Heidelberg.
Hill was also able to experience other cultures even when she wasn’t traveling. The Kodály Institute is an international school, and Hill was able to befriend people from other countries including Ireland, Greece, France, Australia, Spain, and Argentina.
“The Irish are really fun,” Hill said.
While abroad, Hill missed the ease of communication between professors and students.
“People aren’t as attached to their cell phone in Hungary,” Hill said. “Professors respond to email very slowly.”
Although Hill liked her professors in Hungary, she also said that they served less of a mentor role in comparison to Capital. Luckily, she befriended older master’s degree students who became mentors to her.
Hill sometimes felt out of place or foreign in Hungary, but usually the people were friendly, welcoming, and willing to meet you halfway if you were struggling with the language. Hill recommends learning the language basics of any country you visit.
“I was actually paid to assist a woman in teaching English to a class,” Hill said. “And, afterwards, she invited me into her home for dinner.”
Hill encourages everyone to study abroad not just for entertainment or education, but as a trip that is beneficial to your growth as a person.
“I can’t even express how much you gain from study abroad,” Hill said.
Valuable Things to Pack
- Comfy clothes. You can still worry about being fashionable in a foreign place, but don’t forget to bring yourself a nice pair of sweatpants or pajamas.
- A good pair of tennis shoes. Wherever you go, you’re probably going to do a lot of walking.
- The largest suitcase you have. Test your airline’s weight and size limits. Even if the bag is half-empty, you’ll be bringing souvenirs home.
- American snacks for you foreign friends. You’ll want to share your culture with your new friends.
Rachel Vretas, a senior public relations major with minors in digital design and studio art, traveled to Wollongong, Australia for six months. Normally, study abroad participants travel an average of four months, but Vretas arrived three weeks early, and then extended her visa at the end of her visit to stay longer.
Vretas has wanted to visit Australia since she was a little girl. Her grandfather used to keep stacks of National Geographic around, and she remembers that her favorite issue was the one with the koala on the cover. Ever since seeing that first koala, Vretas has wanted to see wildlife and landscapes like the one in that favorite National Geographic magazine.
Vretas fulfilled her dream by seeing every state in Australia except for West Australia and seeing every major city except for Perth and Darwin.
“I fell in love with each place I visited for a different reason,” Vretas said.
Vretas said her most notable experiences included camping in the outback for a month, swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, climbing the highest mountain in Tasmania, and experiencing different beaches.
“I loved exploring, but I also loved getting educated,” Vretas said. “I learned about the scarcity of water in certain places, and I learned about the importance of the Great Barrier Reef. Everyone needs to do their part to save it; it’s the largest living organism on earth.”
When asked to name one favorite experience, Vretas remembered a day of hiking through the outback that ended in a trip to Uluru, the largest sedimentary rock in the world. Besides holding that distinction, the site is also a sacred aboriginal meeting ground.
“The most interesting part about the Outback was that we had to use a physical map,” Vretas said.
Although Vretas spent a lot of time exploring, she also spent some time getting educated. Vretas took four classes and said that it was a lot easier than a typical semester at Capital. Classes met less frequently, and teachers liked to institute mandatory small group meetings outside of class instead of holding lectures.
“It made me feel more like a person and less like a machine,” Vretas said.
Vretas met her boyfriend while in Australia, and she went back to spend time with him over this past fall semester’s winter break. Along with spending time with him and being able to explore again, she got to experience the dynamic of a typical Australian family. She had Christmas dinner with her boyfriend’s family and was able to experience new holiday traditions.
“There are these tubes with prizes and crowns in them that everyone opens before Christmas dinner,” Vretas said. “And at dinner everyone wears their Christmas crown.”
Vretas would encourage anyone unsure about study abroad to just do it.
“Studying abroad made me realize what a capable person I am,” Vretas said. “I constantly surprised myself.”