“My 5 p.m. or Your 5 p.m.?”
As I continue with my study abroad experience, I find myself facing an obstacle that I did not expect to be my biggest foe. No, it’s not homesickness or culture shock. It’s something that felt like it would be much simpler: time zones.
Don’t get me wrong. This experience has been amazing. I’ve gotten to see a lot of new places and have had the time of my life. However, I can’t ignore the elephant in the room: Living this far away from home isn’t as easy as being 30 minutes away was.
Allow me to provide you an example of a typical day for me.
Here I am, sitting in my London dorm at 9:30 a.m. I have about a half hour before I have to leave for my classes. I think I want to call my parents to check in… oh, wait, I’m five hours ahead of them.
That’s okay, though. I can call home when I get back later.
Now it’s “later,” probably around 4 p.m., and I reach for my phone. Oh, wait. Mom and Dad are definitely at work now, and by the time they get home, it’ll easily be 11 p.m., maybe even as late as 3 a.m.
Looks like I blew my chance. I guess I’ll try again tomorrow.
This example can be applied to any number of scenarios and people: setting up meetings with people on campus, catching up with my friends, the list goes on. To be perfectly honest, this change has felt, in a number of ways, isolating.
Many times, I’ll wake up to dozens of missed texts and notifications from my friends that live back home. My first reaction is always “Why are you guys all awake at 4 in the morning?” and then I remember that 4 a.m. for me is 11 p.m. at home.
It’s a weird feeling to know that just as my night is ending, my friends’ nights are just beginning. It’s almost as if I wake up every morning to a new season of my favorite show and everyone else has had time to watch it, except for me.
Of course, social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram help to lessen this gap in time, providing ways to send messages and videos that we can open on our own time. In addition to this, my best friend and I have taken to sending voice memos when we can’t call each other.
While I have been able to find quick fixes like these, it doesn’t change the fact that this is hard. Being away from friends and family isn’t easy for anyone and having different schedules and time zones surely doesn’t help.
If you’re going through a similar situation right now, whether you’re also studying abroad or just a bit farther from home than you’d like to be, know that you’re not alone.
While being off balance with the people that you’re closest to can feel lonely, try to remind yourself to tap into the people that are around. Live in the moment, enjoy the opportunities at hand and, when it’s all said and done, return to your previous routine with newfound excitement.
I know I’ll return from my semester abroad with a stronger appreciation for the time that I get to spend with my loved ones. For now, I’ll take what I can get with each FaceTime call and text that I can share with them.