This week I’ve been much more homesick than I ever have been here. Usually I get sad thinking about my friends and family back home, and how it almost feels like my life is static here while everything just continues without me at home. I get worried that this experience is changing me in ways I won’t recognize until I get home, and that I won’t fit back into my life in America anymore. Sometimes though I just want to go home and get a huge plate of terrible Americanized Chinese food and watch an unhealthy amount of Netflix. This weekend has been particularly hard for me, because it was my little sister’s birthday on Saturday. Even when I’m at college, I always come home for her birthday. Even though we Skyped, I still felt incredibly disconnected from my family.
The first strategy I’ve been employing to stave off homesickness is to keep busy. Rome has no shortage of museums and other activities to do, and keeping occupied can definitely help take your mind off of homesickness. Luckily, I had the opportunity to have one of the busiest weekends of my trip so far as European Heritage Day and the free opening of the Vatican museums on the last Sunday of the month coincided.
European Heritage Day meant that there were many national museums and other activities in Rome open to the public for free. Unfortunately, before we left we didn’t look up exactly what was free and what we would still pay for.. Travel tip: if there’s ever a free museum day, make sure that the museums you want to go to are participating! We went to the Colosseum hoping to get in free, but as a tour guide outside informed us, the Colosseum is never free. Walking around the area was really fun though, and we ended up seeing the Basilica of San Clemente instead, which is an operational church built on the ruins of a medieval church, which is in turn built on the remains of an ancient Roman house.
The Ara Pacis and the Castel Sant’Angelo were also free on Saturday. Everyone knows that the Vatican is a must see when visiting Rome, but the Castel Sant’Angelo is amazing to see and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Rome. It’s a great example of the complexity of Rome’s history. It was built by the Roman emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family, and later converted to a castle by the Popes and used as a fortress and prison for the Papal states. It’s a gorgeous building that houses several interesting museum collections, and the view from the top is absolutely phenomenal. It’s definitely the best view of the city I have seen so far.
At the end of the day, and when everything is closed, it is even easier to get caught in a wave of homesickness. Honestly it helps to just cry it out. Bottling it up just makes it that much harder to deal with. I always feel much better after having a good cry. Keeping a journal is also a great way to keep your feelings under control. After writing out all of your homesick worries, even if they seem to stupid and ridiculous to say out loud, you genuinely feel better. All in all, ignoring homesickness only makes it worse and harder on yourself. Homesickness can make your time here feel like a waste of time, but it will get better! Wallowing can only make it worse.