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I always experience a mixed array of emotions and feelings when the time to travel back home from college comes around. There’s the sadness of leaving friends, the happiness of returning home to my family, and the stress of the long journey ahead. One would think leaving college for the break would get easier every year. However, for me, that’s never been the case.

While most people are excited to travel back home for Christmas, as an international student, the excitement often gets overshadowed by other things. Firstly, the journey is long and tedious, and preparing for that journey is a whole task on its own. I often have to start packing weeks in advance, making sure not to leave anything behind in Boston. In my case, it’s almost a 24-hour journey to get back home to Pakistan, which I never look forward to. I begin to dread the long flights more and more as the time to leave approaches.

Secondly, saying goodbye to friends never gets easier. Especially in the time of COVID-19, leaving the country as an international student always feels like a big risk. With COVID-19, I always feel on edge because of the uncertainty that goes with being able to return back to Boston. Usually, going home for the break is more of a “see you later” than a “goodbye.”

However, these days, no one can be sure of that. Leaving friends, in that case, makes it extremely hard to say goodbye. It’s sad to be apart from college friends who live all over the world, even if it’s for a short break. I’ve just become so used to being in the comfort zone of spending every single day with my college friends.

On the other hand, there’s always mixed emotions. It starts off with the excitement of being reunited with my family back home. When I’m at college, I often experience phases of homesickness, just because I’m so far away from my family. However, that quickly turns into excitement when the break approaches. I always look forward to seeing my parents, my siblings and my dogs. The thought of being able to see my childhood friends also majorly contributes to the excitement of going home. Furthermore, there’s just something different about being home in your own bed and your own room. It’s such a personal, welcoming and safe space to return to.

Once the long journey has been conquered, the arrival sets in, and I’m reunited with my friends and family––it just feels truly blissful. However, then comes the aftermath of it all. It starts off with the severe jet-lag. There’s a 10-hour time difference between Boston and Pakistan that I always have to combat and, let me tell you, it’s difficult. Getting adjusted to the time difference, sleeping during the day and being up all night completely throws me off every time. The feeling can be extremely unsettling until it’s overcome about a week to 10 days later.

Finally, when all of the adjustment issues have been combatted, the beautiful feeling of being home begins to settle in. All of the home-cooked meals, playing in the backyard with my dog, bugging my little brother, and hitting the city with my friends are just some of the best parts of being home. Of course, I miss Boston, college and my friends back there. However, I always find ways to be in touch with my college life. And suddenly, before I know it, it’s time to go back to college.

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