Home for the Holidays

home

By Guanani

Coming home for winter break after being away for college can be unexpectedly disorienting.

This was especially the case for me, having chosen a school more than a thousand miles away from Minneapolis in Portland, Oregon. Even though I’m close to and on good terms with my family, suddenly being surrounded by them after months of figuring out how to live on my own was more of a challenge than I expected. I immediately missed the personal freedoms college offers; being able to go anywhere without having to tell anyone, the privacy of making my own decisions, and the spontaneous socializing opportunities I had gotten used to at Reed.

After the ridiculously busy last few weeks of the semester, I was looking forward to spending time with my family and having nothing to do for several days. But once I had finally turned in my last final exam, packed up my warm clothes and gotten off the plane into the chilly Minneapolis air, I mostly felt lost and confused.

I have two homes now: the familiar Minneapolis I grew up in and Portland, whose streets are full of memories and new friends and freedom to explore all kinds of new challenges. After weeks of going full throttle, always having some kind of assignment to work on or outing to participate in, being home almost felt stifling.

With free time to spare, I suddenly didn’t know what to do with myself.

Eventually the feeling subsided. I found projects to work on, spent the holidays with family and friends from high school, and came to feel much better about being home. But I know that initial shock of returning will only get stronger the more time I spend away. My new life at college that I worried so much about the summer after high school has become my normal life, and I can’t help but be a little sad that I don’t feel as at home here in Minneapolis as I used to.

Curious, I asked my friends who go to different colleges how they felt about coming home. Everyone had their version of similar feelings, which boiled down to wanting to stay connected to their childhood home and family but also not wanting to spend too much time there. My parents also noticed that I was talking much more about Portland this year, and that I seemed bored at home. My dad said he understood, but was clearly sad. “I’m not as important in your life anymore,” he lamented. “But make sure to keep visiting. We miss you over here.”

After some reflection, I’ve decided I probably won’t stay home during all of winter break next year. But I would at least like to visit for the holidays, when everyone else comes together. Even though I feel increasingly separate from them, there are still many unique things I love about my family and Minneapolis.

I know it’s important to spend time here, at least for short visits, and stay connected.

Creating a Home in College

home

by Guanani

There’s plenty of college advice floating around about leaving home and transitioning to college, but very little about what it means to create a home for yourself once you’re there.

One of the most valuable things I’ve come to learn is the importance of creating a home; without a solid place to come back to, physically and emotionally, it’s easy to feel lost, confused, and not sure how to ground all the hard work and exploration that a college experience involves. Home isn’t just something you find, but something you actively create according to your needs and values.

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Here are a few things that make a home feel like home for me:

  1. A space where you feel comfortable and relaxed.

This can be tricky if you find yourself in a loud, cramped dorm situation, but home doesn’t necessarily have to be where you’ve been assigned to live.

Look for a place where you feel calm and can unwind from the day. If you have a friend who lives in a quieter area, spend time in their dorm. Maybe there’s a pleasant spot on campus with a cool tree, or a corner in the library you can return to on a regular basis that can serve as a home away from home.

  1. Headquarters for your life.

Home is the axis that supports the rest of your life, whether that means a pit stop for snacks or a nap, a cozy corner where you can reflect, or just a place where you keep your things. Ideally home in college is conveniently near your classes, friends, and sources of food and other necessities.

The important thing is for it to be close enough that you feel connected to the greater college community while still having your own personal space.

  1. People or a community to come home to.

This has been by far the most important part of creating a home in college for me. Feeling like I belong and having people to talk to, study, and go on adventures with became easier as time went on and new friendships were formed. Living in a distinct community without your family offers you the unique opportunity to build a family of friends to support each other when things get difficult, do homework with, or just spend time together on a regular basis.

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Making a home takes time and effort.

It doesn’t happen overnight, and finding the right circumstances and strong relationships to make it happen can be hard or even frustrating in the midst of all the various challenges college brings. Home should be a focal point in the constellation of your life, something you can rely on, feel safe in, and come back to over and over again.

As you move on from living with families and discover the possibilities offered by independent living, don’t forget to consider what creating a good home means to you.