Andres Davila | News Director
Until I was 19, Miami was the only place I had known and considered as “home.” From the culture to my friends, the city represented what felt comfortable then.
Now that I have completed my second year of college in three different cities, the definition of “home” has been a gray area lately. Miami does not feel like home anymore in my eyes.
For the Fall 2022 semester, I went to study abroad in Madrid, Spain under FIU’s International Student Exchange Program. I may have romanticized a bit too much living in Europe temporarily, but within that semester, I realized that Madrid was more than a city to daydream about. It became my second home.
The first month of studying abroad was weird. Adapting to a new culture, living in another continent I had never visited, and even understanding my courses was rough. It also didn’t help that I didn’t know many people before leaving, so the feeling of loneliness was overwhelming.
However, exploring Madrid became my coping mechanism. Visiting the museums and enjoying the food made me appreciate the city. Later in the semester, I began to make friends and travel around Europe – Which felt great coming back to Madrid after a trip. Hence, the Spanish capital became my second home.
Although I knew I was returning to Miami before the holidays, I wasn’t mentally prepared. Packing four months of my life in another city where I felt at “home” and returning to my actual home felt like a simulation.
It almost felt like I detached from the idea of Miami being my home.
During the Spring 2023 semester, I was dealing with “reverse culture shock,” or adjusting back to my home country and feeling disoriented. It felt strange adapting back to Miami to the point that I did not enjoy being out in the city with my friends. I felt out of place, struggling to resume my routine before leaving Madrid, especially since the two cities have different infrastructures and mindsets.
When I was starting to adjust to Miami, I got an offer to attend the American Economic Association Summer Program, a program dedicated to training students for graduate studies and working in economics in Washington, D.C. Another period of discomfort.
I didn’t know what to expect from D.C. compared to Madrid, but I had a similar experience. I traveled outside of the D.C. area and explored the city, but I quickly adapted to D.C. compared to Madrid. It may be because I live in the United States, so D.C. wasn’t much of a shock. Or that I have experienced moving away for a while and already know what it is like.
D.C. is where I met some of my closest friends and had an easier time creating lifelong friendships, considering all the participants lived in a dorm building. When the time came to leave, similar gloomy emotions arose. But it didn’t surprise me since it reminded me of when I left Madrid.
It has been almost two months since I came back to Miami, and I still struggle with what “home” means. “Home” means how I feel around people or comfort. It could be using the subway system or exploring art around the city, which I can do in any city if I look for it. It could also mean appreciating the culture and lifestyle. Compared to my experiences in Madrid and D.C., Miami feels out of place. And it fills me with anguish.
I don’t know where I’ll be after my final year of university. Perhaps I will stay in Miami, or perhaps not. It all depends on how I go when applying for jobs. It’s a constant cycle of whether or not I’m ready to leave Miami officially.
For those of you struggling to adapt to a city, you are not alone. It is normal to feel out of place and lonely, but here is a reminder: Home is everywhere but nowhere. It’s up to you to define what “home” is and what to make of it when you are not there.
The opinions presented on this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.