I was walking in the streets of Istanbul wondering how my college experience would be a day before my flight to America, as Jim Morrison sang “blood in the streets in the town of New Haven” into my earphones.
I arrived in New Haven initially as a lonesome traveler, exploring every corner, tree and pretty New England garden — President Peter Salovey’s included. In the end, the city turned out to be relatively clean. I was a latecomer, so the fall was already here and I couldn’t remember an October being that pretty. The colors were as bright and diverse as my emotions after deciding to attend in-person Yale only three days before. I was primarily motivated by being tired of trying to adapt to the time difference and watching the Instagram stories of my fellow college-mates having fun. At first, remote college from home was all right. All my friends weren’t off to their colleges yet, so we stayed overnight at each other’s, studied and hung out. Also, the alternative scenario, life at Yale, appeared quite threatening on paper back in the summer: all classes online, no in-person activities, 14-day quarantine, COVID-19 tests twice a week (I pictured they would be much more painful than they turned out to be). Then my home friends waved goodbye, and I ended up being alone in my room — completing the flood of reading for DS all day and trying to stay awake for my classes all night. Also, the time gap increased from seven to eight hours, even though most of Turkey’s neighbors like Greece or Cyprus adapted to the seven-hour difference. Because, yeah, obviously no one can make this independent country adjust to a time according to other places. How dare he who even has the slightest idea to make it so? It was sickening to see even this turning to an ideological battle behind the excuse of “benefiting more from the sunlight” (which we didn’t) and I guess that was the final straw. One day, I suddenly told myself: “Well, maybe it won’t be that bad if I go.”
Nothing turns out just how it looks, and the life at Yale was thankfully far from being as elegant and somber as its exterior architecture suggested. I appreciated most the tiny pieces of grotesque miniatures squashed between places, which one notices with a little more attention — perhaps in a column of the Sterling library or right at the entrance of a college building exit. I suddenly found myself in a vibrant social life, funnily adjusted to the pandemic regulations — rushing from one suite to another between a reinterpreted Jenga Truth or Dare or beer pong. The first appearance of sunlight meant a whole bunch of interesting people to discover in a new day, whether it was a classmate finally met for in-person coffee, a random person encountered in small talk at Cross Campus or a conversation with a street artist, an LGBTQ+ activist or a non-food small business owner in New Haven for a YDN interview. For the first time, life passed by without me trying to grasp at it. I realized it was time to go home when I got the coolest goodbye present from a residential college friend: a song composed upon the chords from the letters of my name, G, A and E.
Then I went back home.
I didn’t feel any different, though that was not what my family told me. My grandparents wondered if I lost some weight (as grandparents always do), but they eventually concluded that it was because I grew up and lost some childish facial fat. My dad interpreted my disappointment of being back at home as me “crashed under the heavy burden of life,” while my mum was pretty convinced that I was a “free bird who flew away from the nest” and all my future visits would be as a guest, not as a permanent resident anymore. That reminded me of a friend back at Yale asking whether or not we felt we belonged here. Everyone said yes. The Facebook page for the class of 2024 told us so: “Welcome to Yale, Welcome Home.” I’ve also seen so many college dorms decorated exactly like home bedrooms, with petite candles, photographs, lights and even carpets. I didn’t know what to feel about that. After all, this was a completely new place to me. I’ve only just put some of my paper marbling on the wall. Some of the marbled papers are also hung up on my dad’s apartment walls, in the tiny visiting room of my grandparents’, in summer schools and, of course, in my room back at my mum’s. Looking at the ones in my room, I wondered how different places can possibly be anyway if they all have paper marbling from the hands of the same person.
Being between places can help me get away from routines, which can easily get boring. Maybe it’s true that everything is prone to change: the people surrounding us, everyday lives, even our own habits. But I don’t think it’s the places that are causing this change. It’s more about how we perceive them, it’s about us. I now realize that wherever I go, it’s still the same me, anyway, who’s doing the traveling. So, I guess home is wherever I feel most like myself at the moment. And thankfully, life has been quite generous with me so far, as I feel so everywhere with the people in my life.
Gamze Kazakoglu | firstname.lastname@example.org