Home is where the heart is

Home is where the heart is – it’s a tried and true saying, a bit worn perhaps, but it still sounds about right to me. I have been thinking about it a lot this past week while running last minute errands with my son before he heads off to college. He’ll be in a foreign country on a different continent, 10 hours away by plane, literally across the world. I’ve been trying to imagine what it will be like for him to arrive by himself, a ‘just-graduated-highschooler ‘ to find his way, to make new friends, to discover new foods and explore new places. As he says — it’s exciting and terrifying, all at once.

The school he is going to has a large international student body and they know how to help overseas students get settled. They know what the practical needs are regarding cell phone service and bank accounts. They are aware that parents are worrying about everything from food and housing to laundry and healthcare. So, for months now we have been getting offers from cell phone carriers and information about banking, housing, healthcare and food. This school is well organized that way!

I feel confident my son will be well cared for in a physical sense. My worry has more to do with him feeling at home and like he belongs (and yeah, that he’s doing his schoolwork). I haven’t seen much from the school about the emotional part, about what to do if he finds himself a little lost in terms of cultural adaptation or plain homesickness. Perhaps they are banking on Freshers’ week to take care of all of that.

From what I can glean, Freshers’ week is pretty jam-packed with activities for incoming freshmen. My son seems to particularly look forward to the upcoming pub-crawl (yep, he can legally drink where he’s going). I guess I have my own reservations about Freshers’ week taking care of the emotional needs of a bunch of 18 year-olds. Although I suppose it will be a good way to meet people and start making friends.

He does have a little bit of a plan for how to combat homesickness. He is joining the North American society (Thanksgiving saved!), the Swedish society and if there is one, the Game of Thrones society. He figures that between the three of those he is bound to meet some likeminded people as well as have opportunities to attend traditional cultural celebrations from ‘back home’. Then there are the dorms, he will be sharing a kitchen and bathroom with several other students – they are destined to run into each other and they will have to talk, right?

These last couple of weeks I have been trying to get my son to think about what he might want to bring – personal items? Mementos? Pictures? All along he’s been saying “oh, I’ll figure it out, don’t worry”. Last night, the night before leaving, he asked: “can I take the pictures of my sisters on the fridge and oh, do you have any pictures of all of my friends and me together that I can have?”

I just got back from dropping off my son at the airport. There were tears for both of us as we hugged goodbye at the security line, though in all honesty, it was mostly I who cried. He seemed ready, his backpack stuffed with goodies and necessities. He had his favorite books and music, his well-worn beanie on his head and a smile on his face. All I could think was that this is a good start to a new adventure. He will be fine and so will I!

By: Felicia Shermis

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