Homesick For the Holidays
Pakistani exchange student and her Wisconsin host sister at Christmastime

Alum talks complicated Christmas emotions

Guess who got homesick during holidays? Me!

Everyone is going to have ups and downs throughout their exchange year. Holidays can be a crucial time of feeling homesick, because we usually spend holidays with our families. Even as time passes by, holidays will at some point make you miss your family.

For me, it was Christmas—even though there were so many great moments with my host family: the big gatherings, the weekend with my host cousins, the Sunday morning breakfast with Grandpa, the hikes with my aunts and uncles....

Christmas made me miss Eid. That’s the holiday I celebrate in Pakistan like no other. All the preparation, the food, and loads of family time! At one point when we were celebrating Christmas, I felt my heart ache. At that moment, the time I spent with my natural family flashed before my eyes. Seeing the genuine love my host family and extended host family had for each other made me miss home so much that I went to my bed and cried.

Seeing the genuine love my host family and extended host family had for each other made me miss home so much I went to my bed and cried.

Not the dramatic leaving the room and smashing on your bed type of crying—I just excused myself and went to my room, tucked myself up, and cried. It was the first time since my arrival in the U.S. that I missed my natural family to the point of crying. Not that I never missed them once, I did. But at that moment, it was just a lot.

But guess what had I forgotten while I immersed myself in thoughts that made me even sadder? I had a HOME in the U.S. too! Just a few moments later, my host mom crawled up to me with a wide smile on her face kindly asking me to come out and join them. They were opening presents!!

I went to wash my face, and when I entered the room everyone looked up at me and welcomed me back! My host cousins welcomed me to sit with them and asked me why I went to sleep so early because the fun had just begun! I had a long night laughing, opening presents, and playing family games. Time just flew by.

That’s when I understood something I read on the internet that said home is the person or place you want to go to over and over again. Indeed, I would want nothing else than to have another family gathering with my extended host family! After just three short days, they carry a special place in my heart. And of course, like every other exchange student, I can now happily say that I have two homes—two sets of parents and two families that I love with all my heart!

–Fatima (YES 2019/20, Pakistan), hosted by the Gilpatric family (WI)