Guest Blogger: Amanda Toledo, Peer Advisor
My first two days in Leeds, England were spent on campus, busily running around getting my student ID, taking campus tours, finding my way home from Morrison’s (the grocery store) and having my first pint at The Old Bar in the Union. My evenings were spent in my quiet, distanced, cold dorm where, for those first two nights, my broken window let in winds that went through it like a sieve and made a noise equivalent to that of a shrieking tea kettle. Overwhelmed with the shock of a new culture and an overload of information, I didn’t have a familiar, comfortable place to process it all; I was homesick.
I video chatted with my aunt each night, sobbing about my misery and ordering her not to tell my parents I was having a tough time. After emailing a friend back home, I got the best piece of advice in that moment of homesick-crisis: plan things. Plan three things to do in the next two weeks: buy a bus ticket for a day trip, go to a club meeting, plan a night out to dinner with other international students, whatever it took to get out of my room and into the thriving city. By the end of the first week I had found friends, a cupcake shop, and classes I enjoyed. I still called my family members at night, but now it was to gush about the incredible British experiences and the amazing British toothpaste I’d bought (in my phase of awe, regular objects became endowed with a magical, charming, English quality).
A month later as my friend and I were leaving Se7en, my favorite local Panini place, a man stopped me on the street. His eyes were wide in a mild panic and he asked me if I could give him directions to a store in the city centre. Without thinking I gave him precise directions on how to get from where we stood to the store he sought, telling him it’d be about a ten-minute walk. After he thanked me and walked away, the significance of the moment struck me. I turned to my friend (another international student) and said, “I knew how to give him directions! I’m like a local!” It was in that moment I realised I had found my place in Leeds; the city had not just been an adventure but had become my home.