Emma in Paris: Easing Homesickness Abroad


Studying abroad can have its challenges, but is a rewarding experience. (Courtesy of Emma Lipkind for The Fordham Ram)

Barry was tall, at least 6’3”. He wore sandals fit for a true bohemian, paired with a linen shirt of such high quality it almost clashed with his laid-back nature. His hair flared out behind his ears like bird feathers — a perfect focus point to help stay awake during a morning meeting. After 22 years in the city of love, he said his French still needed work. He sat on top of a table as he lectured to 24 jet-lagged, slightly confused but excited 20-somethings. Most of us had touched down in Paris just three days prior to enter the mystical world of studying abroad. Barry would serve as our resident therapist, if need be, for the next semester.

He repeatedly told us, “this is going to be one of the best times of your young lives.” It’s impossible for that statement to be backed by hard evidence, but that’s how most of the world thinks of studying abroad. And in Paris, too? We’re going to have an unforgettably amazing, riveting, life-changing whirlwind of a journey — it’s inevitable.


I want to believe Barry and everyone else. But the weight that I feel, the longing for a return to the comfort I once knew, and more than anything the fear that has utterly washed over me is overpowering the evidence-less words. It’s been just over a week since I got here, and I have felt numb to the city practically every moment since. 

I am an adventurer, an extrovert, a social butterfly. I am not only comfortable with change, but I welcome it. So why do I feel so utterly wrong in one of the most magical cities in the world?

It probably has to do with the ridiculous amount of pressure I feel from everyone, Barry included. People said study abroad would be all so great and magical, but who was going to prepare me for the challenges that come with it all — loneliness, confusion, language struggles and a feeling of having to start over? That doesn’t even include French-specific issues. Not all the stereotypes are wrong, people.

In the process of writing this article, I have tried desperately to break down my feelings, hoping that discovering the root cause will help them go away. I realized that I may not be as good at change as I used to be, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m lucky to miss the comfort of loving friends, my own living space, a supportive family and, most importantly, iced coffee. So rather than judging myself for feeling this way while in this incredible city, I am letting go. If that means feeling a bit off while my feet are dangling over the Seine, then c’est la vie.

Despite it all, I have enjoyed so many wonderful moments with people in my program, all thanks to what Paris has to offer. We eat artisanal sandwiches (vertically, like true locals) while strolling through the Luxembourg Gardens. We walk even more than I used to in New York, stretching the city as wide as we can. We eat dinner at a table much too small for a group, but with a view of the Louvre (which we have unlimited free access to, by the way). We speak French to everyone, and even when they respond in English, we keep going, determined to practice as much as possible. We’ve gotten lost, taken a day trip to Champagne, made new friends and eaten basically only carbs. 

It absolutely has been a whirlwind, and I feel like I have whiplash after just one week. School hasn’t even started yet. With all of that being said, I’ve realized that adjusting my expectations and being kinder to myself is all I can do to make it all the more enjoyable. I can thank Barry for that.

Living with a host family, speaking a different language all day, trying to make connections with new people, navigating cultural differences and still remaining authentic is seemingly not for the faint of heart. Who would’ve thought? But maybe writing these articles will help me share a true reflection of this kind of experience. If anything, they will keep me connected to home, to Fordham, to the Ram (which I love dearly), and that’s all I can really do. I hope you will join me as I figure this all out. I think it’s going to be quite an interesting time.