I remember the warm smile of an older woman sitting next to me in the intercity bus terminal as I clutched my paper bus ticket in my left hand, quadruple-checked that my passport was in its designated place with my right, and desperately studied “useful Greek phrases.” I was terrified, suddenly aware of my adulthood. It sunk in gradually over the course of the two-hour bus ride from Athens to Nafplio, while I oscillated between staring out the window and staring at Google Maps.
My days in the small capital of Argolis consisted of teaching brilliant Greek high schoolers and exploring. I felt at once like myself and someone else entirely. I talked to strangers, enjoyed four-hour dinners, and walked slowly — a change of pace from my typical rushed Quad commute.
When I got home, all I could think to say to my family and friends was that it was awesome, life-changing, difficult. I knew I couldn’t do justice to my experience in its entirety. I couldn’t explain how it felt to learn the personalities of each of our students, or the farewells that felt final with friends that were brand new. And there were moments I wanted to keep for myself, like walking the paths of ancients in Mycenae, floating in water so salty I barely had to tread to stay afloat, discovering hidden beaches populated by cats along cliffside trails. And underneath it all, there was a quiet ache for home, and a sadness that my family and friends weren’t right there with me.
I’m not sure I’ll ever lose that lonely feeling, pulling me towards home, comfort, friends, and family, but I do think there’s a certain peace in these experiences that are solely my own. Maybe that’s the adulthood settling in.
— Sports staff writer Caroline G. Gage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first time I felt homesick was not on first-year move-in day, but when I went home for Thanksgiving. I longed for my lovely four-person Canaday suite. With the squeaky couch that my friends had lugged up three flights of stairs, the coffee table that was missing a screw, and a mouse we named Mr. Stilton, Canaday was home.
Returning my key at the end of the year felt like departing on a voyage, never to return. In reality, I was 12 minutes away, in a summer sublet for my internship in Boston. After one week there, my landlord called — he wanted the apartment back. I had to move out in two weeks. I laughed. At least most of my stuff was still in boxes.
The new apartment was isolating. Strange roommates who left passive-aggressive notes on the fridge and fled to their room upon seeing someone in the kitchen. A few weeks later, my long-distance boyfriend called — it was over. I laughed. At least missing him wouldn’t be new.
They say that you can’t grow when you’re comfortable. I won’t say that it’s impossible, but I’ll wholeheartedly affirm that discomfort brings growth with expedited shipping. Taking a step back, I got to know the girl I called myself. Learning her favorite cafe order (matcha in the morning, chai after 2 p.m.); what makes her anxious (a lot) and what calms her down (journaling with a cup of tea); what makes her smile (morning walks, watching a lightning storm through a window, spicy tofu soup). And I learned that she’s pretty cool. I’d like to spend more time with her.
The storm of fear, loneliness, and tears that clouded the past few months turned out to be the storm before the calm. To summer ’23, my sincerest gratitude.
— Editorial editor Autumn Shin can be reached at email@example.com.
New York City, New York
I’m not sure I knew what I was in for when I moved to New York. At the time, I was at the tail end of a year that cut me open and poured salt in the wound, and at the helm of a summer that I knew would drag me even further from the constants I had left. I thought the new season would change everything — the typical bout of escapism that convinces you you’ll heal the second you move away from what you know. Usually it’s not that simple. Sometimes it is.
Summer ended up being everything all at once. It was making friends over cinnamon rolls in my communal kitchen and crying on the subway surrounded by strangers. It was running through heavy rain — even though I usually never do that — and it was no air conditioning and ice cubes on the back of my neck. It was long conversations with Trader Joe’s cashiers who were actors and playwrights and former lawyers who know better now, and it was witty banter with Rosa at the front desk. It was a gray cubicle that felt lonely until it didn’t and a place called the Grief Hotel and a feeling of half-longing that I can’t quite name.
New York was at once a physical place and a state of mind. New York was looking back and realizing the person I’d been looking for all along had always been there. It was she who replaced my wilted flowers each week and remembered to take my supplements in the morning, she who cooked dinner and packed lunch and took care of me. Maybe she was a bit of a different person over the summer, but I think I liked her. I finally liked her. Usually it’s not that simple. But, sometimes, sometimes it is.
— Magazine Editor-at-Large Michal Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bymgoldstein.
I just wanted to get the fuck out of town. I wanted to get on plane rides that would take me across three continents in 24 hours and enter a trance for 10 weeks and come back and not know what Barbenheimer meant. I wanted to learn to be alone. I wanted to have zero chance of seeing anyone with a nose ring.
It took less than a week for me to learn that I couldn’t be alone. Not even a little bit. I went insane. I started watching Seinfeld because it kind of felt like home. But somehow, slowly, my dirt road commute to the hospital got a little shorter. My days filled with unlikely friends. Living in Botswana was watching moonrises and mixing up sample IDs and learning to say hi to strangers on the street. It was seeing monkeys piss on brunch. Waking up before sunrise to watch lions mate. Watching the Arsenal game with the Zimbabwean border patrol. “War and Peace” next to the thermocycler. Birds that could have been designed by preschoolers. Beef and catcalling every day. Extreme temperature fluctuations. Goats and antiretrovirals.
When I got off my eighth plane of the summer I went straight back to Brooklyn Bridge Park. I needed to be surrounded by people on bikes, trains, ferries, helicopters, kids playing pickleball, old men in sequined thongs. I went to bed that night and realized it had been exactly what I was looking for.
— Magazine staff writer Una R. Roven can be reached at email@example.com.
Los Angeles, California
June — Recently, I’ve become reacquainted with homesickness. It’s an unsettling departure from the chronic itch of wanderlust I must constantly resist the urge to scratch. Lonely and claustrophobic in the most populous county in America, I long for my childhood bedroom in the city whose streets I can navigate without Google Maps, where I can run around the lake without getting harassed, where night sky stars are real and not post-production CGI.
July — I desperately want to like it here. Inspired by my mother’s increasingly urgent semi-weekly emails (“Get out there and enjoy the city! Love you xx”), I’ve pinned 137 places on Google Maps I’ll probably never go to: trendy cafes profiled in “The Infatuation,” new museum exhibits from Instagram ads, Michelin-starred restaurants I can’t afford, and exclusive nightclubs I can’t get into, quirky boutiques I pass while aimlessly wandering the boulevards, famous cafes from famous scenes from movies, most of which I haven’t seen.
August – I never got used to Los Angeles. I don’t think I ever will. But already I miss gossiping with my co-intern over break room biscotti. I miss the traffic that granted Uber drivers that much more time to tell stories about their grandkids. I miss lazy afternoons sunbathing alongside two Great Danes and one little mutt. Above all, I miss that uniquely Los Angelean delusion — of a big break just around the corner, of falling in love, of success any more permanent than the billboards that change over each awards season, of cooler summers with no threat of encroaching wildfires. I miss waking up with the delusion that today will be Life-Changing, and going to bed believing that even though today wasn’t, tomorrow will be.
— Arts staff writer Tia A. KwanBock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My parents dropped me off at JFK with a passport printed the day before and a stack of cash, my payment method for the next 10 months, hidden in different parts of my luggage (a deodorant tube, an old pill bottle, socks). I wore a baggy sweatshirt to hide the bulky money belt I wore for the first time. I knew what American newspapers said about Beirut (economic crisis, 2020 blast, no elected government), and I knew what my friends had said about Beirut (vibrant neighborhoods, art and nightlife, killer food), so I really had no idea how the two would meet for my 10 weeks interning.
In my time there, both were true. People often told me Beirut was a city of contrasts. I made friends with young journalists I met on a minibus and spent hours wandering alone. I reveled at colorful buildings and stopped to stare at the gas station that was still collapsed. I ate beautiful mezze spreads and groceries quickly, before they could mold in the hours without electricity. A lot of conversations started with “before the crisis.” I learned from and laughed with my co-workers, who were the smartest group of fun. All these things were true in a country one-third the size of Maryland.
My weekdays started to look a lot like each other. Wake up, go to the gym, commute to work, come home, repeat. All these steps looked and felt different than they had before. I thought maybe this was just it. About how after graduation, we’re left with the rest of life — running through these days, decisions unserious and significant, one after another, guessing, astonished and grateful for the world.
— News staff writer Charlotte P. Ritz-Jack can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @charritzjack.