The Cure for Anything is the Saltwater in Santander

Tori Chester is a student at UNC Wilmington and an ISA Featured Blogger. Tori is currently studying abroad with ISA in Santander, Spain.

IMG_1020 the beach
The view from the top of my run!

Here’s the scenario. You arrive at your study abroad destination starry-eyed, filled with hope and excitement and maybe the tiniest bit of caffeine. You spend the first few excursions running around with that same just-landed gleam in your eyes. You even hop to your first classes with all the enthusiasm of a sugared-up kid on the eve of her seventh birthday, thrilled with the brand-new world of all things study abroad in your future. And then it happens.

Maybe you’re struck with a ferocious craving for Taco Bell, or, better, cheap Japanese takeout. Maybe a cute puppy on the street reminds you of your pets. Or maybe it’s inexplicable, a vague, frustrating, sadness that leaves you daydreaming of peanut butter, classic 80s movies, and other things difficult to find in a foreign country.

This afternoon, while I wallowed in this particular feeling, I considered my options. I didn’t really want to do more than lay face-down on the couch for a few hours. But it was sunny—the kind of weather that every local has assured me will not last long—and every second that passed made me feel guilty about ignoring the gorgeous day just outside the window. Grouchy, grumbling to myself, I got up. I went into my room. I put on my running shoes, grabbed my iPod and stomped downstairs, twin songs of “but I don’t wanna” and “I’m tired” whining in my head the whole time.

The moment my feet hit the pavement, though, that all disappeared. I’m not very fast, and I didn’t think I could do more than a couple of miles, but I thought I could remember a pretty place I’d been the day before. It was, however, at the top of a hill (Santander, I’ve discovered, is quite full of hills). I didn’t think. I just ran.

The streets were practically empty, thanks to the siesta time. I bounced along without too many people to dodge. As I ran, the sun came out. It lit up the ocean so that the water glittered a wonderful turquoise color, and as I ran farther up the hill, there was only more water to admire. It was gorgeous. By the time I made it to the top of the hill, gasping a little, I was lucky enough to see the most amazing view (see photo at top of post).

When I got back to my homestay, sweating and gasping a little, “Eye of the Tiger” still playing happily on my iPod, I stumbled into the shower. The moment I got out, I dashed off to class without really stopping. The rest of the evening passed in a blur of Spanish and classmates and fun, and I didn’t even really remember that I’d felt sad until right before I went to bed.

If you’re allergic to running or live in a place where it rains (i.e., Santander most of the time), here are some more tips for beating homesickness!

Exercise: It doesn’t have to be running. It could be dancing, yoga, basketball, soccer—anything that gets you up and moving!

Exploring: No matter where you’re studying, there’s always a little bit of exploring to do. Grab some friends, head on out, and treat your city like it’s a puzzle you’re trying to solve. Find the beach. Find a café. Find the greatest ice cream in all of Europe!

Meeting People: If you’re stuck at your homestay missing your hometown, why not head out and spend some time with the locals? Chatting at a café or at the student union will make you concentrate on something other than sadness, and you even may make a new friend.

If All Else Fails: Go ahead and watch that favorite DVD that’s been sitting in your bag for three weeks. Talk with your mom and dad. Send your best friend a postcard. Do something that makes you feel connected to your friends and family back home, and you’re sure to feel better faster than you can say Skype date.

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