It is hard to live in one place knowing that somewhere there is another place to which you belong. You always wonder what you are missing or whether you would be better off at the other place. The idea that once you go back everything will be different and you won’t fit in anymore often crosses your mind. You are not only afraid of the possibility that once you go back the physical place itself won’t feel like home anymore, but even more so that the friends who used to be a substantial part of your life will not accept you back once you spend so much time away.
When I first arrived in the United States, I wrote messages home every day. I reported everything that happened to me, I consulted my friends on everything I did, and I wanted them to rely on me to the same extent as they did before I left.
Soon after classes started I just could not keep up with reporting every single minor event in my life, because I didn’t have enough time. The unexpected realization I would not be able to keep up my friendships the way I wanted made me feel lonely.
But slowly, the more time I spent abroad, the more I was able to accept that I was abroad, and that it was okay that my relationship with home was going to change.
I stopped writing to my Hungarian friends on a daily basis, although I still talk to them regularly, about once every two weeks. I still make sure to report the major events in my life to my friends in Hungary, and sometimes it’s also just nice to call and talk about whatever comes to mind.
I think that if something happens to you that makes you think about your friends from home, you should make sure they know that. Writing them a random story or even a sentence about something that happened to you just lets them know they are still a part of your life. I try to make a point to initiate conversation with them and not wait for them to contact me, so they know that I’m interested in their lives too. Keep in mind that the changes that your leaving brought are also affecting them in ways you might not be able to understand.
Although I talk to them less frequently, I believe that my friendships are just as alive and strong as they were before I left for the first time. And, importantly, I have learned to balance my friendships from both countries; Hungary and the United States.
I learned that meeting new people and making new friends does not mean that there is no room for your old friends anymore. You are able to form and keep as many relationships as you want, and those relationships can even serve different purposes in your life if you are open to accepting them. There will be things that you want to share only with friends from home and there will be things that you can more easily share with those who live around you, because one of the groups will be able to relate to your experience more.
It used to be that “home” was where the people and the places were familiar, while school was the place of new experiences. But after several years, the sharp line that once divided home and school is blurring, and the concept of “abroad” has disappeared into an expanded definition of “home.”
We can never expect that everything stays the same at home while we are abroad. The streets, the buildings, and the people are constantly changing. Friends from home have their own lives and grow through different experiences. Although my friends from home and I are growing separately, we will always be able to relate to each other and share with each other. Once you learn how to share experiences and maintain friendships from home, you realize that there is no reason to hate the distance because it can be just as enriching as the lessons that your immediate surroundings offer.
When I am asked to think about a place where I can always go back whenever I want and that I consider my home, I still mention my hometown, Debrecen. However, “home,” in a broader sense, has come to include the place where I am and where my friendships are formed.