Making a new home in LA

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Making a new home in LA

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Of the countless new experiences during my initial days in college, the most frequent one I experienced was a lump in my throat. I had it when I saw a family walking in the park. I felt it when I heard my friends talking about visiting their parents. The lump would grow when the food I made was miles away from tasting like what my mom cooked. This is not an exaggeration, but my eyes actually moistened once when I saw a man buying ice cream for his daughter. Not because I could not buy myself an ice cream, but it reminded me of the countless fond memories I had with my father. Amidst all assignments, due dates and tests, homesickness only worsened things.

There was a different sense of freedom and independence with being far from home, but the realization of being away from my family always haunted me. The house felt empty without having my sister to fight over little things, without having my father share his not-so-funny joke for the umpteenth time. My body was so used to being in my room that I hit my head several times on the wall while going to the bathroom at night. I missed the fragrance of Parijat, the night jasmine that I planted and had just started blooming, the chrysanthemums that added color to my garden. I missed every part of my home. Sometimes, I even had to let the heartache turn into tears, open the faucet in the bathroom and let the salty water roll down my cheeks. The two suitcases I brought from Nepal were not enough to carry things that had a huge importance in my life.

When people say every problem has a solution, they are definitely correct. I found ways to cope with the new environment, the new culture and new people around me. My first strategy was to spend more time with Nepalese students who grew up in a similar environment as I did. Accepting that I was homesick, like many of my friends, helped me realize that I am not the only one who was facing it. However, only talking about a thing definitely makes no difference. Getting more involved on campus helped me occupy myself and reduced the anxiety that was within me. Understanding American culture while also celebrating Nepali festivals was like medicine to me.

Of all the actions I took, the best one was turning to food. As there is no place in Hammond that serves authentic Nepali cuisine, the only option was to cook for myself. Food always brings back the taste of home and reminds me of my mother. Even after spending three semesters in college, whenever I miss my family, I try making dishes the way my mom makes it. To my surprise and delight, now I am pretty good at making Nepali food. Giving myself some time has helped me overcome my homesickness, and I believe it is the same for all the students who are far from their family.

Being in a completely new environment is definitely intimidating, but as time passes by, the place you once thought was new will be your home. People who were once strangers will be your friends. It is natural to miss your family because they are the origin of your identity. However, there will always be little things that prove to be your strength and not weakness. As for me, that little secret is my special cup of milk tea, spiced with cinnamon, cloves and some cardamom. A cup of tea brings the fragrance of my mother’s kitchen and energizes me for the day.