where my hom(i)e(s) at?

In The Art of Travel Spring 2017, 11. Travails, Berlin by Veda Kamra1 Comment

I have come to believe that hardship is necessary in life to not only make us appreciate such fond memories with greater strength, but also ends up being a lesson to learn and grow from. Nonetheless, no one enjoys experiencing these rough occasions, during which we struggle to lift ourselves back up without external aid.

One of my more difficult weekends here in Berlin I experienced in early February. My closest friends had gone on a girls’ trip to Budapest, which I opted out of because I had already visited. However, my entire suite was empty that weekend, and I had already begun to regret my decision even before anyone had left.
My first night with the girls’ all gone, I went out with a friend to the weekly street food night at Markthalle Neun, and split some delicious food and a bottle of wine with new German friends who study in Berlin. We got to know each other and danced and chatted at a nearby bar afterwards, and it turned out to be a great night.
The whole next day, however, was rather lonely. At that point, I was still only a few weeks into study abroad, and I still felt new to program. The girls who had left were my closest friends at that point. I had yet to meet that many more people, and felt awkward texting those I was less close with. At first, I was actually happy for alone time in a clean, quiet suite. It did not take more than a few hours for me to start to miss everyone. I missed their conversation, yes, but I also simply missed their presence within our new home. The suite felt sterile and void of energy without them. I also began to develop a serious fear of missing out pretty quickly, and this sinking feeling was only exacerbated by the cute snapchats from the streets of Budapest that kept appearing on my phone. It just felt like everyone had suddenly left that weekend and turned the dorm into a ghost town.
The night was a bust as well, for I ripped my coat and ended up going home early. The next day I woke up feeling terribly homesick. For the first time, I felt a longing for New York. I wanted a toasted, everything bagel with scallion cream cheese, I wanted a giant coffee from Porto Rico Importing Co. on Bleecker, I wanted to walk through the bustling streets which are always filled with distracting, vibrant energy, and most of all, I wanted my New York friends. Not going to lie, I also really just wanted my mom. It’s one thing to talk to someone on the phone, and it’s great, but it’s got nothing on the real deal.
That Sunday was rather gloomy and cold as well, and I holed up in my room. It was one of those days when you really want to go out and explore and have fun, but you just cannot find the will to put on real clothes, brave the cold, and make the tiny, windy trek to the U Bahn. It is days like that one on which you need the slight motivation of one person to motivate you and form a verbal contract that binds you to going out. Without that spoken commitment to stick me to a plan, I was easily able to let myself bundle up at home and wallow in my homesickness. I called my mom, braved telling her about my sad, torn coat, and got caught up on her life. Although it was lovely to speak with her for so long, I just ended up wishing I was sitting with her and sipping tea or watching a trashy TV show or cooking with her, and I felt even more isolated in my little island of a suite. Essentially, it was a weak weekend that was cured only by the return of my suite mates later that evening. I kept texting them to get updates on their arrival at the airport in Budapest, then in Berlin, then on the Bahn on the way home, and finally, they arrived.
Their return to Berlin almost completely cured any homesickness I still had floating through my thoughts. I just remember being filled with joy at not just the sight of their happy faces but also the sound of them filling up our little home. I got updated on their weekend and was filled in on all of their weird encounters and inside jokes and scrolled through a new album of photos. I was so ecstatic to hear about how much fun they had and I was just grateful to have them back with me. I realized just how much it was true that the people I live here with have such a strong impact on my overall experience. I felt so lucky to have made such strong connections within a few short weeks and I realized how special these people were. I missed each and every one of them for their own qualities, and I know this because even when just one of them is gone for a weekend or even one day, something feels slightly off-balance. Likewise, when I left for a weekend and for spring break, I missed my friends terribly, and when I returned, I felt the love reciprocated from all of them.
So, although it was a lame weekend with an overdose of self-reflection and Netflix, it still served as a reminder of how lucky I am to have met all of these special people.


  1. Hi Veda! I really love the honesty coming from your post. I too have felt homesick in Berlin. I feel like there’s no shame in stepping back one day, and having a sad, Netflix, chocolate filled evening, much like the Sunday you had. Sometimes, those days are totally necessary. It’s great that you have friends who you care about, and who care about you so much too! I have also found trust, comfort, and family here in Berlin, and that’s great. I hope you keep enjoying your time here!

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