Moving abroad after living in the same city all your life

'Home' reconsidered

Izmir, Turkey
Izmir, Turkey. Photo: Pexels

Being a first-year international student is a constant struggle of adoption and adaptation. You have to adopt a new life, home, and country, and give them a place in your heart. Then you have to adapt to this new life, home, and country, letting it change you.

But, if you are like me and have lived in the same city all your life, this can be a hard task. For me, my city is not just a part of me, it is only the place where I have ever existed. And we all know that part of our identity stays chained to places. So, how does one dissect the part of “I” tied to this physical place and what becomes of that part of you once you leave it?

Whenever the word “home” comes to mind, it will probably forever be connected to Izmir, a coastal city in Turkey. I know that I will probably live in many different cities and will have many different houses and even homes, but I genuinely feel like nothing can ever replace the bond you have with the place you grew up with. Whenever I call my dorm “home” or Utrecht “my city,” I feel a tinge of guilt.

It feels like I am racing against a time bomb as I know it is healthy for me to start feeling like I belong to the place I study at, but I can't stop thinking of it as a betrayal. Over the next three years, most probably I will start seeing Utrecht as a place I belong to. But I just cannot imagine a future where I say “I’m going to my parents’” when I go back to Izmir. It seems like a loss and I think I have been grieving that future since the moment I arrived.

It hits me every time I’m back. I used to change alongside it. I was there when they tore down an old road, I complained while the new road was being made and blocked the traffic and then I walked through the new road. Never was there anything new to me and never was I new to it. Now, every time I go back there is something that hits me, something that makes me feel as though I’m a foreigner, such as my favourite cafe closing down or a new park being set up next to my house. Life moves on. Without me. What if it does not wait for me? What if I cannot catch up?

It is never going to be the same. I am never going to belong to just one place from now on. At least not in the same way. It is healthy to not be stuck in the past, I know this, and I keep telling myself this. But for now, let me mourn my past and the future.