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What It’s Like Moving Six Thousand Miles Across the World for College

December 15, 2018. I remember it like it was just yesterday. It was the day my life changed―the day I got into my dream school, Boston University. I sailed through my final semester of high school with ease, counting down the days until I could finally start my college journey. I knew I would miss my hometown of Dubai, but I severely underestimated what it really meant to be 6,649 miles away from everything I knew.

When I said good bye to my mom at the airport in early September, two weeks after move in, I was sad, but I was also excited about what the semester was to bring. I had big plans for myself. I was going to get an amazing GPA, join as many clubs as I could, make tons of friends, and have a college experience as exciting as everyone else portrays it on social media. In hindsight, I’m now able to recognize how overambitious this was. I had good grades in high school, I was always involved, and I had lots of friends. How hard could it be to continue that in college? 

Anna Schultz-Girl On Computer StressThe answer is: A lot harder than I expected. Around a month into my first semester, I was ambushed by a wave of homesickness, something I wasn’t exactly prepared for. Even though I had my older sister nearby at Tufts University and an amazing roommate, I had never felt lonelier in my life. My classes were a lot more difficult than I had anticipated, I struggled with meeting new people, and most of all, I lost the motivation to really do much at all. I was always thinking about how much I missed home, and when I wasn’t, I was thinking about how miserable I was here. 

Even though BU had been my dream school for ages, and I’d previously lived in Boston, I had never felt more out of place. I hadn’t really had to meet new people since fifth grade, and I feared that I no longer knew how to make new friends. Worst of all, every time I opened my phone, I was bombarded with Instagram posts of people from my high school who looked like they were having the time of their lives. People who had come just as far as I had, but clearly hadn’t been consumed by their homesickness.

Anna Schultz-Hands With Cell PhoneI found myself counting down the days until I could go home, back to a place where I knew I belonged. I kept the majority of my struggles to myself, not wanting my friends to know that I wasn’t having the college experience I’d dreamed of. I rolled my eyes when my sister told me it was going to get better, that the first semester is always rough, convinced that no one else understood. I knew I wasn’t the first person to go through homesickness, nor would I be the last person. At least I was lucky enough to be familiar with the city I was moving to―I had lived in Boston until I was nine years old. Yet I still felt completely alone, even when I was surrounded by other people. I didn’t make as much of an effort as I should have, whether that be with new friendships, involving myself in clubs, or reaching out to professors with the material I didn’t understand.

It wasn’t until I returned home to Dubai for winter break that I was able to re-grasp my “normal” self. At first, I was extremely disappointed in myself for essentially wasting my first semester, but also for giving into the facade of social media and trying to prove that I was having the time of my life. Talking with my family and my best friends made me finally realize that I wasn’t the only one feeling that way, and it also helped me structure what I wanted my second semester to look like. I came back to Boston with a completely different mindset: I didn’t have the naive idealism I had in August, where I was striving for perfection and nothing less. But I also wasn’t coming in with a negative perception of essentially everything around me, as I had when I left the city in December.

blue college hat room I’m officially a little over a month into my second semester of college, and I’m happy to report that my family and friends were right: it does get better. And it has. Instead of fixating on how much I would rather be home, I’m reminding myself of all the amazing opportunities I’m getting here, and how privileged I am to be able to experience it all. We truly have the world at our fingertips as BU students, and I’m so lucky to no longer call it just my dream school, but my school.

Some days are definitely harder than others, but I’m extremely thankful to be here, and I can’t wait for my next three years on Commonwealth Avenue.

 

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