This past weekend, many Yalies returned to New Haven from their homes elsewhere. I was one of them: I traveled to my hometown, Portland, Oregon, for break.
The journey from Connecticut to Oregon is quite literally a journey across the country; the six-hour plane ride only reiterated that I’m living basically as far from home as possible while still being in the United States. As I traveled, I understood that I had truly left behind a stage of my life. The first time I flew from Portland to New Haven, I was still a high school student. Now, looking out the window at two months of college gone by, the metaphorical concept of distance became more literal and tangible.
This was the first time I went home knowing I would be a visitor. Over the past few months, I’ve been grappling with the word “home” itself, finding that it has started to evolve for me. Before college, home meant my blue house in Portland, my mom barging into my room to wake me up for school and temperamental Portland weather. But now, I’ve started hearing myself say “I’m going home” before returning to my suite. Where is home for me?
Yale, I think, does a great job of cultivating a home away from home for many students. We have access to a multitude of communities here — cultural houses, residential colleges, freshman counselor groups and clubs — to make us feel comfortable.
Still, though, something seems to be missing, even with these communities fostering a sense of home. Still, though, I flinch when I call this place “home,” because I feel as though I’m lying. Still, though, home means that little blue house across the country.
Perhaps the transition to truly feeling at home at Yale is gradual. Upperclassmen feel much more assimilated to Yale than freshmen do, understandably. Many call Yale “home” without a second thought. This is both wonderful and impossible to me: We’re all from different homes, yet we all share this one. We all bring our first homes with us while we mold Yale into our collective home.
Many of my friends here struggle with homesickness, although it is tacit and often invisible in day-to-day life. It seems that the language we use everyday — the word “home” to talk about our suites — does not fully reflect the reality of feeling displaced and away from what we know.
No one seems to talk about this homesickness. It hides beneath our papers and assignments and long lists of extracurricular activities. And on Friday nights, we go to parties to drink and socialize.
No one talks about feeling displaced, because these discussions reflect a perceived weakness. If we talked about these things, we might realize that we’re not seamlessly adjusted to Yale, as everyone else seems to be
One Friday night, when most students were out, I talked about home with one of my suitemates. She asked me if I missed it, and I nodded. I told her I loved it here, and yet still felt somehow lost, not fitting in as effortlessly as everyone else seemingly was. My suitemate said she felt the same way. And so do all my friends. Everyone feels home here, and everyone doesn’t.
I am now a visitor in my old home in Oregon and an expat at Yale. I now have two homes: one calcified in my memory and one in a state of perpetual becoming. No one is completely at home in one place, for home is a composite of places. We are continually moving in its direction, no matter where we go. Tomorrow, after eating lunch at Commons, I’ll walk back to my suite with my backpack full of books and I’ll say I’m going home, because I always am.
Meghana Mysore is a freshman in Davenport College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .