Making Home Where You Are

There’s a set of expectations that come with college: pressures that often cause depressing, debilitating homesickness when the set of expectations are not met to our usually high standards. For most of us, the most common misconception about college is that it’s going to be a second home to us, maybe even a better one than that of our childhood and raucous high school years that we wish to forget immediately upon graduation. We might even imagine a family of friends at our new college, calling our dorm room “home,” and never wanting to leave. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen, leaving us stuck and disappointed as the late September rain crashes against our window and the thunder rolls in.

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Truthfully, you don’t know how you’re going to fit in at a college or university until you get to this point, about a month in a half in, now equipped with knowledge that you would never have known before—even if you went on dozens of tours. You now know that the people next door will always play their music into the late hours of the night, that most people don’t come out of their dorms during the day on the weekends, that some professors are highly erratic while others might not care at all about the subject they teach, and that you and your roommate might not get along as well as you hoped. It’s hard coming to terms that you may have screwed up one of the biggest decisions of your life and had failed to enjoy yourself and failed to make a new home in the process.

This was largely my experience at my first college. I wanted to make it work, so I got out of a tough roommate situation, I made sure to stick close to my family, and I tried to keep as many positive friends around me as possible. And, it worked, for the most part. I still was unhappy. It still wasn’t feeling like, home. But then I realized that home wasn’t a place.

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.” ― Sarah Dessen

Home was where my family was, home was where my friends were. And, through the middle of my second semester I realized that home was Harrisburg. I couldn’t imagine driving three hours away from home again next August to experience the same uncomfortable, disappointed feeling of being away from everyone I was truly close to. So I withdrew and found a new university, which I would, again, hope to become my second home.

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“There is no place like home.” ― L. Frank Baum

My new university is more than I could’ve hoped for. I believe I have found that second home that incoming college students dream about, and it’s really not the university itself. Because, let’s face it, dorm rooms are tiny, have to be cleaned, and it’s not my bedroom at home that I’ve decorated with string lights and collages. The dryers barely work, and the food isn’t my mother’s or dad’s. They aren’t here to do my laundry or to hug me when I’m sad, or make me grilled chicken just because that’s what I want for dinner that night.

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Home here, for me, is my friends in class with whom I exchange complaints and discussions about the material we’re learning, my professors who offer their assistance and time outside of class like they would want nothing more to see me succeed, my friends outside of class who keep me sane, take walks with me when my mother can’t, and I trust completely. Home is the laughs, the deep talks, the hugs, the jokes, the dinners, the hikes, the hours studying so that I can do something fun later, the multiple cups of coffee, and the goodnight kisses from someone so special to me.

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Considering home has become so much more to me than Harrisburg, there really is no place like it. It’s no longer even a place. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

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