On leaving the nest

September 13, 2019

I moved to Massachusetts a year and 18 days ago. Fun fact: I still misspell “Massachusetts” every single time. How and why I ended up at Brandeis is a story for another day; all you really need to know is that I am here and ready to reflect on the last year of my life. According to Google Maps, I am 7,215 kilometers away from home, and I still don’t know if I fully comprehend that. Going to school so far away, like most things in life, is a blessing and a curse. I think it is an invaluable experience, others may still be horrified. 

I was 17 when I left for Brandeis, and being so far away from everything and everyone you know makes you grow up quickly. My mother was no longer here to schedule my doctor’s appointments, do my laundry or figure out my life for me. I think many people would see this as a major downside of this experience, but I disagree. Although it was hard at the start, I am very happy that now I can proudly say that I make my own doctor’s appointments. And do my own laundry. And (somewhat) have my life figured out. 

I am very happy that I got this opportunity to learn how to “adult” quickly, because amid moving to a different country, starting college and being alone, learning how to do all these practical things didn’t seem like such a big deal. I even iron now. Without someone telling me to. It might seem like I was just thrown out into the open with no lifejacket, and in a way it was, but I like the fact that I had no other choice. I feel like if my mother was close by she would be ironing my outfit for my 30th birthday party. 

I also feel like the fact that I was so far away from home and the closest of my friends was in Chicago, really forced me to meet people at Brandeis and start making it a home. I didn’t really have another choice (other than being alone for the next four years I guess). And surprisingly, because of this dire situation I think I ended up adapting to college much faster than most people. I understand that this “sink or swim” situation would not work well for everyone, but it worked miracles for me. 

But the new home comes with many other new things, starting from the language I have to speak to the way stoplights work. As much as I enjoy the fact that everyone speaks English, I have to admit that my Ukrainian and Russian skills have deteriorated greatly. I really don’t get much practice in either. And even I forget that I supposedly speak French. 

Going to the grocery store was also an adventure, and honestly still is. What are these “pints” and “gallons”? Why can’t everything just be in liters? Pounds I somewhat understand now, or at least, I know that a pound is roughly half a kilo, and that is enough for me. All my shopping lists are still written in liters and grams (what’s up with measuring everything in cups?) though thankfully most goods have labels with both measurement systems. 

The one thing no one really converts is temperature. For the love of everything holy, why does America use Fahrenheit? For the first two weeks or so, it took me a minute to remember that 90 degrees is not near boiling, but merely a relatively hot day. But I am great at adding and subtracting 18 now. What a useful skill. Though if you ask me what 75 degrees feel like, I will still not be able to answer you, it’s like really hot, right?   

Of course I have to address the famous question of “don’t you feel homesick?” Of course I do. Everyone does, no matter how close Brandeis is to their home. There were many nights where I wished that I could go home, watch “Gilmore Girls” with my mother while drinking sea buckthorn tea. Just for a night. Even for an hour. Or just a hug, those are always nice. During finals week, I always dream about being back in my bed, surrounded by familiar things. But that was never an option, so those feelings had to go. 

But as normal as they are, these feelings do not help with anything, they just make things harder to deal with. I was always scared of homesickness taking over my life, so I tried my best to stay busy all the time, be it with homework, clubs or my new friends. That that was probably the best method to adjust: if you are always busy you firstly do not have time to feel homesick and secondly are already getting further ahead in making the new place your home. As cold as this attitude may seem, it was a very effective one. 

Food was a big thing for me. Not because I am particularly fond of food, but just because my diet changed so much. It was very weird to see pizza and burgers for lunch and dinner every day. I really missed Borsch (which I never really liked anyway), and cottage cheese snacks. I still miss those. I miss crepes, because American pancakes are the big thing here and I am just not a fan. 

It is funny how much of a difference food can have. When I was home for winter break, I brought back some candy and snacks, and had them whenever I felt homesick. I do not know why it helped as much as it did, but it was almost like for a brief second I was back home. I still bring back food from Ukraine, but at this point it’s mainly because I miss the foodstuffs themselves rather than home. 

I felt like I should include what, in my opinion, is the worst part about being so far away from home. The distance from my parents seemed like an obvious one, until I talked to my mother who reminded me of how much I love flying. Flying across the Atlantic four times a year is the worst part. Not only do you lose four days of the year on traveling, I always happen to have something go wrong. Flying back after the summer, my flight was delayed by five hours. I do not know what it is with me and flying but we just don’t get along. When I first came to Boston, the airline lost all my luggage and I spent the first month here with just the things in my carry-on. What a great start to college right?   

Looking back at all this now, I am very happy that my adjustment period was short and relatively unproblematic. I got used to most things in my new home, but the imperial system is not one of them. And if that is my biggest problem, then I think I am either very lucky or very adaptive. Or maybe a bit of both. Now I feel comfortable being entirely on my own, but going home and being taken care of will always be amazing. 


And now my sophomore year brings even more changes to my life, not being dependent on Sodexo food anymore, I have to learn how to cook too. And figure out what to do with clogged toilets. And deal with unwanted roommates (why are spiders actually everywhere?!). And a bunch of other things no one told me about. But taking one step at a time, I am sure I will adjust to all of that too. 

Welcome to the world outside the nest.  

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