When I started college, my new school was so close to home that I didn’t even change malls, but I was still nervous about moving away from the town where I had spent 12 years. My grandmother lived in Wellesley, where I was attending school, and my mom grew up there. While excited to learn about their town, I also worried that it wouldn’t feel like home to me.
My parents, nervous that I would lean too much on my hometown, challenged me to not come home until Thanksgiving break. Adjusting at first was strange, because I had no friends to lean on and no knowledge of the campus. But I found new friends, and learned the campus and before I knew it Thanksgiving had arrived and I hadn’t returned to my hometown. Once I got to know the place and people, I really had very little reason to return to my hometown other than for holidays.
Fast forward a year, to Thanksgiving of my sophomore year. It was a unique pain to go home for the weekend only to leave again after such a brief time. But as I drove back on to campus and lugged my suitcases out of the car, I had the strange feeling I was both leaving home and coming back home. In other words, home was a feeling of being included, and the knowledge of a place.
[bctt tweet=” I had the strange feeling I was both leaving home and coming back home.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Shortly after that, something else challenged my idea of home: my parents decided to sell our house. Until the very end of the process – the summer after my junior year – there were uncertainties: where would we go afterwards? I knew by that point that college felt like home to me. But it was still strange to think that I would never again be in my childhood home, or just ten minutes away from my friends. Here, home was convenience and memories.
When we moved it was an odd experience (or maybe such experiences are always odd) because we relocated across the street from where my aunt had her second home. I grew up spending summer weekends there, and I recognized the neighborhood from the days when my brother and I would ride our scooters around. I also recognized the places where my cousins had worked in the summer. Getting used to the town was easy, but I felt isolated. Here, I had the memories and the knowledge of the place that made it feel like home, but not the social inclusion.
The three towns I lived in were all relatively similar, suburban Massachusetts towns, so there was no cultural adjustment while moving. My first experience craving home in a cultural sense came when I studied abroad in Europe. It was strange, that as a junior this was the first time that I had completely switched cultures and languages (despite all the switching of residences), and the first time that I had been away from my family for an entire four months. I found myself missing all three of my Massachusetts towns, proof that, despite complaints with each of them, they all had a bit of an emotional pull on me.
[bctt tweet=”This was the first time that I had completely switched cultures and languages despite all the switching of residences.” username=”wearethetempest”]
When I began studying abroad, I had neither the familiarity with place, nor the social connections, nor the memories to make this strange European city feel like home. The good thing is these things can be built with time. By the end of those four months, I knew my way around the small city, had special memories with friends, and a host family that cared for me as one of their own. In the end it felt like home, proving that sometimes home knowing a place, feeling that you belong, and crafting memories that make a place truly personal.
[bctt tweet=”Sometimes home is built of spacial knowledge, a sense of belonging, and memories that make a place truly personal” username=”wearethetempest”]