As I have found out, being sick in Italy is not fun. Constantly reaching for tissues, coughing up a lung and going from an arctic tundra to a sauna is less than enjoyable. The one nice thing about being sick in Italy is that there are ways to fix it. They have amazing pharmacies where you can go in, describe your symptoms, and they can give you the cure, all without a prescription. Stuffy nose? Yeah, they can fix that. Migraines? I’m sure they have some Tylenol. Deep cough? They have cough syrup. Missing chatting with my mom? Wanting to laugh with my old friends? Craving chicken tenders from Richie’s? Sadly, they don’t have the cure for those.
Symptoms of various illnesses are typically the same for most individuals. The common cold has a stuffy or runny nose, cough, sore throat and maybe a low grade fever, while people with the flu typically suffer from body aches, high fevers, fatigue and body chills. Unlike a cold or the flu, homesickness is different for each and every person.
Coming into this trip, I expected to get homesick roughly around week four or five. A huge wave of sadness would come over me where I binge eat pasta and cry to sad songs. Contrary to what I expected, my homesickness was not a slap in the face of emotions and longing for the familiar. It is more like this dull, constant hum in the back of my head. When all is quiet around me, it is easy to focus on this hum. I think of home-cooked dinners with my grandma, playing cards with my dad, watching TLC with my best friends, and playing with my nieces and nephews.
A lot of the time, the hum of homesickness is easy to ignore. Between the Italian phrases I need to memorize, directions that I have to remember, and trips that I need to plan, my mind is preoccupied with a lot of other noises. While the amount of things going on around me may be a little overwhelming, it is helpful to stay busy.
This brings me to the four best treatments of homesickness (I say treatments because I do not really believe there is a true cure):
Stay busy: There is so much to do in Rome; try new foods, meet new people, take a walk around Flamino, study for a class, read a book, go to the movies, take the metro to a place that you have never been, go to a museum, etc. The options are practically endless.
Talk about it: One of the biggest mistakes that I made in the beginning was trying to act like I was not homesick. I did not want the people that I just met to think that I was whiny or too emotional. The funny part is that they were homesick too, but until one person was confident to talk about it, nobody wanted to say anything about it. We all took refuge in each others’ stories of our loved ones at home, and the things we miss about the U.S.
Reach out to those you miss: Wanting my family and friends at home to think that I was independent enough to get through this experience on my own, I did not talk to them about how much I have missed them in these past few weeks; however, I soon came to realize that plan was not going as well as I thought it would, so I reached out. After talking to everyone at home, I felt revived and content. There might be an ocean between me and the ones that I love, but they are only one message away.
Eat Gelato: Just do it. I promise that it helps.
While I hate to admit it, it is true: I have been homesick while in Rome. Luckily, I realize that it is not the end of the world because treating homesickness is completely under my control. I have great people in my life that I am able to talk to about it, and there are plenty of things to do in Italy to keep me busy. Most importantly, I am sure Rome will never run out of gelato.