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Home is Just a Feelng: Musings of a Homesick Expat

Recently I have been thinking a lot about ’home’ and what that actually means. It might seem like a simple question with a simple answer. Is it where you live, or like that famous saying, where the heart is? And, if home is actually just where the heart is, what if our heart is in many places around the world? Can we have more than one home?  It really does depend on how you interpret the word, so either home is where your stuff is, or home is just a feeling of belonging. I think most of us, after moving to a new place, have at one point felt homesick or felt like ”this is just some place I’m staying at the moment, this is not my home”. So, home might not necessarily be where you are currently living.

Some people might feel like the place they grew up is their home, as well as the place where they are currently living. For people living abroad however, home might take on a completely different shape. ’Home’ now isn’t just a house or a hometown, it is a country and a part of your life. This means that when going home to your own country you don’t just go home to your family and friends, you return home to your old life again. For me, I always thought that my heart was still in Sweden, and Japan was just some place I happened to live in at the moment. Somewhere along the line things changed though, and the concept of home came to have a different meaning over the years as well.

Since life as a student comes with a lot of freedom, it never felt like ’home’ was that far away for me. I knew the next time I could go back. I knew I could meet my family and friends pretty regularly. There was never a real ’good bye’. Because of this, even after living abroad for over five years, and I have never really felt fully disconnected from my old life in Sweden. As my time here at Waseda is coming to a close however, the reality of what it actually means to live abroad is starting to set in. Since I have decided to stay in Japan after graduation, the opportunities to ’go home’ will become very limited. I have started to wonder if this will further separate me from my home country, or make me feel a stronger connection to it when I do go back to visit in the future. 

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

This whole thought of home and where it is basically started this summer when I visited Sweden together with my boyfriend. It was a great trip and we really had a great time there. My parents had sold our family home and moved to another city however since last time I had visited, so I never really felt like I visited my home in a strange way. I was just on vacation. This image of home, meaning where I come from or grew up, was now just somehow ambiguously ’Sweden’ and my memories there, and in some ways I was just a tourist in a new city visiting my family. As we packed our bags at the end of the trip I had this strange feeling of nostalgic conclusion. I was going home again, to a country on the other side of a world that was supposed to be this cool adventure that I had for a year, that had somehow along the way become just as important as my old life. ‘Home’ had shifted in a strange way I had not felt before. My heart, my home, is in two parts of the world now, and there is always just a little bit of homesickness lurking in the background. 


Born and raised in Sweden, but calling Japan her home now for the past five years. Ella is a senior student at Waseda University, SILS, majoring in culture and history. Main interests are food, taking way too long walks and hanging out in parks, reading a good book, going on hikes, and looking for the perfect spot to have a swedish 'fika'; a cup of coffe with a friend.
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