Moving to Milan wasn’t exactly the glamorous lifestyle upgrade that I had envisioned. In fact, when I got here, I was always cold, always lonely, and almost always crying (I once broke down in the middle of a super-crowded Ikea store… I was alone and I wanted to find bedding and no one spoke English and my mom wasn’t picking up the phone and all I wanted to do was go home).
Even through my family (ie my parents, sister, uncle and aunt) visited me less than 2 months after I moved, it took me a good 3 months to stop crying into my pillow every once in a while.
Six months into my life here, I look back sometimes and wonder what suddenly caused the change. What was that epic change that happened, that dulled the pang I felt without any warning whether I saw something that reminded me of home or not..?
I made some changes, of course, and most of them happened around the same time. So I can’t pinpoint which was the one that cheered me up. Maybe it was a combination of some, or all.
So without further ado… Tadaaaa!!
(1) I (Re)Started Exercising
Back home, I was an avid exerciser- running, swimming, gym, crossfit… Here in Milan, my activity was limited to walking between home and school, and occasional walks to the city centre. Some time in early April, I just decided to start running. The fact that the weather had got much better helped. And just starting the day with a long run made me feel much better about myself and my life (endorphins, anyone?)
(2) I (Re)Started Eating Healthfully
Again, back home, I was usually conscious about what I ate. Of COURSE I indulged, but it was usually eating a lot of healthy food, and processed-food-wise, my diet was pretty clean. When I got here, on numerous occasions I purposefully strode over to the supermarket, and came out armed with bags of chips, chocolates, marshmallows, soda etc, and ate them by the handful… Going through several bagfuls a week. I justified my behaviour by calling it ‘comfort food’ to fill the ‘gaping hole in my homesick heart’. Seriously. Well, I obviously ended up gaining a ton of weight. Add to that the utter lack of exercise and the fact that my clothes stopped fitting, I was pretty miserable, which in turn led to more homesickness… And even more food.
Finally, one fine day, I was sick of feeling sick and I decided to just stop. It took a while, I’m still working on occasional binges, but, again, eating well makes me feel happier with myself, and so I’m not constantly thinking of ‘how I used to eat so well at home, and look at me now’.
(3) I Got Into a Routine
In the early weeks, I had no routine. Weekdays were slightly okay because school kept me occupied. But still, every night, and on weekends, I followed no schedule. Slept whenever. Woke up whenever. Ate whenever (and whatever). So I had plenty of time to feel homesick. I stayed up late doing random things on the Internet and had to wake up in time for school, so I was sleep deprived too (wasn’t life just WONDERFUL?). Then, again, during my early-April ‘transformation’, I fixed my schedule. Wake up. Workout. School. Home. Some time-wasting on the Internet. Sleep. I get a minimum of 6 hours of sleep a night, which I’m trying to increase to 8 (because, seriously, it’s not like I do anything productive staying up those extra 2 hours anyway). I still take it really easy on weekends, but it works out pretty well.
(4) I Began to Consciously Hang Out With People Who Made Me Feel ‘Better’
I’m a pretty social person, though I really enjoy solitude. For some reason, it was IMPOSSIBLE for me to make friends when I got here. I don’t know if it was me being silly, or if people were ignoring me (that just sounds stupid), but I wasn’t even on hi-hello terms with my own class for the longest time. I would watch people hang out, go for lunches and dinners together in the early stages of the get-to-know-your-new-schoolmates period, while I just sat at home by myself because I was never invited. I spent my 24th birthday with a bag of Mars chocolate bars, a bag of popcorn, a HUGE mug of hot-chocolate and marshmallows, a big bag of peanut M&Ms and a bag of chips (how clearly I remember that dreadful day!!). And then, at night, I went out to get gelato (with a friend of mine who I knew from my days in Delhi).
The friends I did have (though I love them to bits) have different interests. So even when I did spend time with them, I couldn’t join in the conversations, couldn’t really fit in. I felt comfortable with them, but I also felt more and more homesick, especially because they belong to my country, and reminded me too much of home. Slowly, once I started making new friends, I was exposed to more kind of people (and more kind of food) and I think that helped me too.
(5) I Began Traveling
Like I said before, my weekends were painful. People usually look forward to the weekend. I dreaded them. Weekends were 60+ hours of misery. Just to avoid that, I decided to start traveling. And I decided not to rely on anyone else. More often than not, I have found that traveling with others results in botched up plans, bad moods and destroyed relationships. Traveling alone, on the other hand, has more advantages than I can count. I spent the next 5-day weekend (end of April) in Luxembourg, Metz and Trier. And the next weekend at Bratislava and Vienna. Planning these trips kept me occupied and gave me something to look forward to, and that gave me less time to be homesick.
(6) I Began Attending Social Events
Well, initially, it wasn’t my fault. Not entirely. Though looking back, I do feel I should have taken more of an effort to make friends. These days, though, we have something or the other happening every weekend (my class is wonderful)- a picnic or bowling or karaoke or a day at the pool or a some classmate cooking us the food of their country. It’s hard to be homesick when you’re occupied.
(7) I Stopped Staying Cooped Up In My Room Talking To People From Back Home
The first few weeks, the only thing I did after getting home from school was go online and get on chat with my old friends. Needless to say, that behaviour didn’t win me any new friends. Now I make it a point to sit and chat with my roommates occasionally (I have nice ones- one each from America, Mexico, Slovakia and Turkey). That makes my home in Milan feel a little more like ‘home’ and makes me miss my Delhi home a little bit less.
Well. So that was my list. I’ll update if I think of more. But right now, I’m pretty content with life. I workout, eat well, sleep well, have a ton of friends from all over the world, talk to my family everyday, travel… I’ve almost begun to feel I’m going to be reverse-homesick once I leave 😛 a concept that was absolutely incomprehensible to me when I first came here.