The stages of coming home and leaving home

Annika Kapp - Ecuador


August 19, 2019

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As the date of my departure to San Francisco moves closer (It’s now only 4 days!), I’ve been reflecting a lot on the process of coming home, knowing I’ll have to leave again. Home is a concept with which I have a very complex relationship – that probably deserves its own post someday. However, right now I’m referring to the place I grew up in and I’m living in when I’m in my home country: the city of Munich. Since leaving home for the first time to attend UWC in 2017, I’ve been through the process of returning and departing four times.

The stages I’m going through are always roughly the same, even though this summer I probably experienced them most intensely. It’s also important for me to note that these stages are not separate entities, they almost always overlap, often happen at the same time or even occur all at once. So yeah, here’s my personal process of arrival and departure, and how I deal with it. 

1) Disconnected & Unhappy

The first weeks being home again after having been away for a longer period of time are always rough. It definitely hit me hardest this summer. I had just left most of my best friends, not knowing when I would see many of them again. I had also left the place I came to call home, where I spent the two most intense years of my life. I didn’t expect leaving to be easy, but I also wasn’t prepared for the hole I fell into when I actually came home. Being thrown back into life in a big city after two years in the middle of nowhere, I was overwhelmed by all the stimuli and masses of people. The few people I still considered my friends here were on vacation, my father was working. I had nothing to do and I think I have never felt as lonely as in these first weeks. 

2) Settling in

Slowly, I get used to my new old surroundings. I visit my favourite places, I reconnect with people, I can coordinate my way through the masses of tourists in my city more comfortably, I get in the habit of buying my favourite snacks and foods again. I’m settling in. 

3) Comfortable

After a few weeks, I have managed to create some sort of new routine that gives me back sense of normality. I feel completely confident in my city, I’m spending time with family and friends, I’m decorating my room and the pain of leaving the old “home” has moved from being sharp to dull. 

4) Suppressing reality

In that wonderful, safe bubble of comfort, the actual reality – that I will have to leave again, sooner than I think – is an uncomfortable thought. Which is why I normally suppress it, shove it to the back of my mind and try to carry on with my new routine as if nothing will happen.

5) Scared

Eventually, the bubble pops, and I have this one moment where I realise that I’m leaving everything behind to move to another country on another continent where I don’t speak the language, to live with a family I don’t know. That thought is pretty scary. It makes me want to curl up in my bed and not leave to anywhere anytime soon.

6) Stressed

Since that is not really a solution, I now fully throw myself into preparations. Which is incredibly stressful. I’m trying to coordinate doctor’s appointments, visa formalities, family visits and shopping trips to make my packing list a little more happy. My To-Do list on the other hand doesn’t seem to ever get shorter, as I’m adding three new tasks whenever I remove an old one. Since my body reacts very physically to stress, I’m prone to get sick more easily, and I am generally not feeling my best. 

7) Fed up & ready to leave

Through all the feeling of comfort and safe routine that has been established now, there are moments where things don’t go as planned or things happen that just make me annoyed and angry. It is in these moments that I wish I could just take my bags and go the airport right away, I’m fed up with my situation and I realise that actually, I am ready to leave. And even though it won’t be easy, it’ll be good for me. 

8) Appreciative of current home

Especially in the last weeks and days of being home, I am more aware of little details and I notice all the small things about this place that make me happy. I enjoy my last rides in the train, reflecting on all the hours I spent commuting with it and all weird people I’ve met in it. I walk through the city centre and appreciate the beauty of Munich, its architecture, its gardens and parks, its museums, its places and the memories that I connect with them. When I was younger, it was considered “cool” among peers to hate on our city, it was seen as boring, cold and snobby. I really started to appreciate it when I left it for UWC, and I have fallen in love with it even more since then. 

The evenings watching “Suits” with my dad become more special as I know I won’t have them for a while soon, and I try to spend as much time with my best friend as possible. 

9) Truly ready to leave (or not?)

Now that my To-Do list is mostly ticked off and my suitcases are almost packed, a certain kind of calm begins to settle. I know that I have prepared as much as I can, and I also remind myself that I have mastered this process before. When I left for Norway, one of my teachers told me: “there will be people who mean well with you anywhere you go”. That sentence has proven itself to be true, and I am certain that it will be no different for my journey to Ecuador. I am incredibly excited for all the new faces I will get to know on this adventure, and the things we will experience together. However, I am still a little bit scared, I am still a little bit stressed, and a part of me still wants to hide in my bed. I don’t think I will ever be fully ready to leave a place that I consider home, and that’s okay. 

Here’s to throwing ourselves into big scary adventures and building new homes!


Annika Kapp