Homesickness, culture clashes & PhD Life – Anna

Does anybody else besides me ever get homesick? Is this an international student thing or does it happen to people from other parts of Britain too?

I have been mega-super-ultra-homesick recently. As you may know, I’m from America. Well really I’m from California. Actually no, I’m from San Francisco. (This is very important actually….it is first San Francisco and secondly California that I miss. I don’t really miss America that much per se.) It’s weird because I’ve lived in the UK for a total of nearly 6 years, which is long enough to start thinking of it as ‘home’ in many ways. If I go somewhere else, when I return to Leamington I say I’m going ‘home’ – even if I’ve been in the US. Although I also say I’m going ‘home’ when I’m flying to San Francisco… that’s sort of confusing.

Also, when I’m in America half the people think I’m British because of my accent. Can you believe it? I know. It kind of feels like I belong in neither and in both places. I guess this is what people mean when they talk about being ‘transnational’?

Anyway, despite all this, the homesickness still comes in waves. Every few months I’ll have a big proper bout of it. I think it has something to do with the weather, as it always seems to be worst in the late fall when it’s getting cold and we’re settling in for another miserable winter, and in spring when it’s SUPPOSED to be nice weather but isn’t. San Francisco is not the warmest place on earth – most of the reputation for endless California sunshine applies more to southern California than to the northern bits – but it is mild and very often warm and sunny, and has long, dry summers which I miss like crazy (it stays cool in the city itself but the surrounding areas get very hot).

Growing up in California, the natural state of things was to have a tan – even a bit in winter. It never completely went away. After living in the UK for 2 years I reached what I fondly call Absolute White – the point at which my skin can’t get any lighter. You know, the colour your @$$ is because it never sees any sunlight at all? When my whole body turned that colour, I pretty much despaired. (Not really, but a little.)

Yet despite all this, I still sometimes see or hear British things that surprise me. I consider myself more or less totally conversant in British English now – my supervisor has insisted all along that I use British spellings etc in my thesis, for example. Yet I still occasionally hear a Britishism I hadn’t heard before. ‘Nesh’ is one I heard recently – apparently it means ‘sensitive to cold’, which totally describes me!

Here is my all-time favourite resource for how to ‘translate’ what British people say:

What British people say...

So true! 🙂

Does anyone else have any homesickness or ‘culture clash’ stories to tell?


Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Suedehead

8 thoughts on “Homesickness, culture clashes & PhD Life – Anna

  1. I completely understand what you mean. I am an international student in the US. Even before starting my PhD program here, I’d constantly moved across Korea, America, and France for almost 10 years.. The funny thing is I always miss somewhere else. I missed being in Europe when I was back home in Korea, I missed being in the US when I was in France, and I miss Korea now that I am stateside! I feel like I’m becoming a person with no home or multiple homes…

  2. I can totally relate! I moved to the US from the Caribbean and lived in one state for 6 years, and like you said, it was enough for me to call it home. I moved to another state this summer for grad school, and it’s like I am homesick for two places. It’s a strange feeling and weird phase of my life. I was so happy to read your blog post. Hopefully this phase passes soon. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hah! your story strikes a chord 🙂 Indian in US here. I studied in UK as well (Glasgow!!) and having lived in both countries, my earlier assumptions of their similarity have effectively been corrected. Your post reinforced that realization. Wish you the best 🙂

  4. Totally relatable..I think I will never be done homesicking! I miss everything..
    🙂 the translation guide applies to Canadian English very much the same way!

  5. This is a very interesting post. I can understand what you meant when you wrote that you became completely white as you don’t see any sunlight! I am from Italy but I am doing my research in Melbourne. It is not the most sunny city in Australia as it is often grey even in summer! Nevertheless sometimes I can see a light blue sky. I am originally from Rome where the sky is always blue even in winter. I lived in London years ago and I became very pale (and I am already pretty pale!). Weather can definitely affect the mood and incresea the level of homesickness! I will come in one month as a visitor research student at Warwick and yes.. I will deal again with the weather! By a south european perspective… the weather can make the difference! Additionally after having lived in different places… home starts becoming an hybrid of cultures, people and even food that you have experienced in different places. 😀 I don’t know if it happens to you but it can happen that once you will be back in the US you might miss the UK too! 😀

Comments are closed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: