By Harry Pearse
“Make sure you keep in contact with me and your mum, okay?” “Yeah, yeah, course I will!” Eight weeks into this tremendously adventurous journey, and I have begun the “drifting away” stage. This is where students, sons and daughters, who have moved away from home, begin to stop contacting their parents through calls, Skype/FaceTime or texting. Yes, I am guilty of this horrendous crime (believed by parents), and in this week’s column, I want to explore whether this is a common “tradition” in the life of an international student, or whether others do not succumb to it, keeping structured times and dates to talk to their parents.
In the early stages of my move to the U.S., I was speaking to my dad a lot throughout each day, to let him know how it was, what I was doing, how I was feeling, and also to see if he is doing okay. International students have to remember that losing a son or a daughter that you have seen every day since they were tiny, cute, and helpless; seeing them grow up and change and watch their life evolve, is extremely difficult for a parent. So initially they might be finding it just as hard as you do in this new place, even though they aren’t with you.
This is particularly the case for my dad. I was the only son out of three that lived with him, so we have a really good relationship. When I left, there wasn’t anyone in the house to banter with him, drive him crazy, and “borrow” money. Although these examples sound strange to miss, they’re not. If you think about it, these factors are the things that make you a son or daughter. These are the things that they have loved (and hated). When you leave to follow and pursue a dream (which they get and want you to do, by the way) their lives can become extremely hard—and so it was for my dad. The reason I know this is because I “used” to talk to him, and see how I put “used”? This is because now that I have settled in, and have essays to write, exams to study for, and games to play, I feel like I don’t have to talk to him as much.
Last Wednesday when I was in the Pratt, my dad messaged me, saying, “Hiya, son, I am sending the stuff from home you wanted me to send. However, the courier needs you to sign it off, so where are you now and I will get him to drop it there?” I was hitting up the gym (obviously to get huge and improve on my already big chest), so I messaged him back, saying, “Yeah drop it at the Pratt Center and I will look out the window for it.” The plan was set and I was going to have to take this great big box of stuff on the shuttle home with me, and then walk from the Hicksville station to my house… Great! (This is what I was thinking.)
After about 20 minutes of this exchange of text messages, I went out of the gym and checked for the courier men or packages at the reception, but there weren’t any. I have a quick turn of the head towards the doors… turn back and then think, “Wait… WTF!?” turn back to the doors and see my bro and dad struggling through with their luggage and bags! It was like fate, like someone had told me to go out of the gym at that point. I didn’t know whether I was ecstatic, sentimental, sad, or shocked. But I think I was all of these emotions. Such a weird feeling. Over the four days that they were here, it gave me a good sense of calm, but also a feeling of sadness and sorrow. These were feelings that I had bottled up, subconsciously, without knowing, and had just gone on with my new life.
This brings me to why I have told this story. Although you guys, at this point, don’t feel as though you have to talk to your parents all the time, it’s good for your psyche to get things off your chest to the best listeners around—your parents. There may be things to worry about— exams, essays, day-to-day life, money, it could even be happiness about exam results, accomplishments, or developing skills. Not only do you get a sense of relief and reward by sharing these things, your parents do, as well. The sense of joy they must get when they hear that their offspring have done something great must be phenomenal, and I can’t wait to experience it with my kids.
So, I encourage you to talk to your parents. I am not demanding that you talk to them every minute of every day, and it doesn’t have to be a long phone call or a scheduled on-the-dot Facetime. No, it can just be a text or Whatsapp saying, “Hey, mum/dad, had a good/bad day, don’t like this, this, and this. How are you today?” That’s all they want; just to make sure that you—their beloved son or daughter—is okay. So, after this column is published and you guys are reading it, I want to see loads of phones being taken out and used for sentimental reasons (maybe a few tears), to have a good chat with your parents.