Sometime in my first few weeks at Yale, my suite of four — with its mahogany wood floors, its ground floor view of Prospect Street, its open casement windows and the snatches of conversation that slip through them — assumed that weighty title of “home.” Perhaps it was after a late night on Old Campus or maybe in a rushed exchange at Commons; nevertheless, in casual conversation, “home” settled into my new Yalie dictionary, its four letters uniting with the kind of compelling connotation that had so far only been afforded to my eighteen years in the same house on the same street in India.

My life in Bombay was framed by familiarity — by 14 years at the same school; by evening walks with friends, parents of friends, even grandparents of friends, in a park overlooking the Arabian Sea; by the owner of my local store, who reminded me in the days before I left for college of the way I used to scan his shelves, bright-eyed at the possibilities of a new LEGO set, back when I couldn’t even reach the counter.

How then, in three short weeks, was I experiencing such solace in waiting for that elusive signal change at Prospect and Trumbull? Why did I feel such comfort in a set change from stone to red-brick and anticipate unbridled consolation in curling up in even the crustiest couch in my common room? How could a place so foreign feel so like home — and why, in my quick adjustment to college life, did I feel a twinge of guilt, the slightest sense of self-reproach? 

Each time that hefty word “home” slipped into dialogue with admirable ease, I found myself wishing it were a little clumsier in my parlance, a little shy of the betrayal I knew I was committing. To call Yale “home” meant casting aside the place I’d left behind; it meant banishing it to a secondary position, throwing into the ring a new contender for its title and challenging it to retain its badge of honor in a duel I refused to referee. 

Sometimes, I hoped to rid myself of the duplicity of this word, to unknot myself from the quantum entanglement of my existence, from that sense of being neither here nor there that I was now condemned to. Because as much as it plagued me, calling Yale “home” also marked the culmination of 6 months of irrepressible excitement since December 16, of daydreaming and night-dreaming of the intellectual haven that wanted me to join its hallowed halls, that granted me the rare opportunity to delight in hearing the bells of Harkness Tower resound across campus on a rainy afternoon. It marked the appeasement of family nerves about my departure halfway across the planet, the arrival of that sense of belonging I always craved but never found in my high school. 

I was where I’d always wanted to be — and shouldn’t that be “home”?

I find myself returning to this question as we adorn our white walls with Yale pennants in the soft glow of our common room lamp, after late nights dancing to We are Young in a stranger’s suite, during family weekend, when chatter in corners of Cross Campus and every family of four being photographed outside Sterling Memorial Library is a queasy reminder of the eight-thousand-mile Odyssean journey that separates me from my parents.

As much as I desire to rebel against “home” and all that it means with avant-garde abnegation, to cut the word of its significance and wring it dry of its meaning, I’m conscious of the cowardice of such desperation. 

So, I relish a morning cup of chai with my suitemates over the same chit-chat that characterizes Bombay afternoons in the monsoon; I brighten with the same excitement recognizing a familiar face among 6,536 new ones as I did in my city of 20 million. I hold Bombay in my grandma’s little blue good-luck charm, tucked inside my pencil case, in the tapestry above my desk, made from embroidery scraps from the neighborhood textile shop.

Perhaps, then, “home” is less a place and more an abstraction, less a room of one’s own and more a room for one’s own: a space where we can feel understood, wanted and safe in the skin of our selfhood. Maybe in trying to ground “home” to a geographical location, we attempt to reconcile what is essentially irreconcilable, to singularize something that can exist in multiples.

So, for all my fellow first years, grappling with a similar dilemma, I offer you some brief respite: maybe we can straddle two continents, make a Ulyssean arrival but into two Ithacas. Maybe we can have two places we call “home” — and maybe we don’t ever have to choose between them.

Perhaps to really molt into our new identities, we must first resolve the recollection of our old ones; maybe, to find a second home, is to furnish it with the things that embellished the walls of our previous one.

KEYA BAJAJ is a first year in Benjamin Franklin College. Contact her at