My first encounter with homesickness was in an excerpt of Roald Dahl’s “Boy: Tales of Childhood. I was in the sixth grade then, sitting in an English classroom in the school that I began attending at the age of four and only graduated from at the age of 18. 

Homesickness was an alien concept to me — as was the notion of a boarding school. Didn’t everyone go to school ten minutes away from their childhood home, 20 if you accounted for Bombay’s murderous traffic? Didn’t everyone pass by the same landmarks, whizzing past a car showroom, a Parsi bakery, the vendor of tantalizingly crispy Dave samosas, on their daily drive? These were the images that framed my two-mile, three-borough experience of adolescent life. How could I miss home? It was all I had ever known. 

I re-encountered a similar account of longing only eight years later, as a sophomore in college. In his delightful recollection of all the bedrooms he had slept in, his complete supplication to a fickle thread of memory, Proust offered a compelling literary account of growing up. But even then, I wondered why he offered Combray, his childhood home, such a privileged status — the room his kaleidoscopic memory would always lead him to. It had been almost two years since I left home, and yet my childhood bedroom rarely featured in any conscious dreams. 

I spent the first half of my time at Yale in militant denial of any homesickness. That is not to say I didn’t appreciate home — even distant friends knew how close I was to my parents and friends, how much I missed Bombay’s choice viands, how much my small school and its teachers had shaped my views on aesthetics, politics and love. I did not want to dispel the notion of attachment, only of longing. 

To be homesick felt like a failure to adapt, to set down new roots, to make the most of college life, to find new forms of love and community to replace those I had left behind. What haunted me most was the specter of the archetypical international student, gallivanting around New York City every weekend exclusively with friends from their hometown, unwilling to take advantage of the cultural and socioeconomic heterogeneity that college friendships offer. As a Yalie friend from Bombay once termed it — intellectual laziness. 

Safe to say, Yale did not have enough international students for me to even run that risk. Denying homesickness, then, was a point of pride. It was proof that I could be an independent adult, that I could build a new life for myself, unsullied by memories of the cocoon I was once swaddled in. What I did not realize was that vehement denial also breeds the beginnings of resentment. 

I certainly did not resent home for its comforting geography or its familiar faces, for its plush privilege and its overabundances of love. Perhaps resentment was too harsh a word. My disdain was more likely for the person I felt like I had to be every time I returned home, the boxes I saw myself being pushed into. The compulsion to talk the same way, to speak fossil poetry — using colloquialisms I haven’t used in three years lest I am accused of having forgotten my roots. The retrogression of my image to the less confident, tighter-wound version of myself. The mental acrobatics we practice before we speak to prove we’ve changed without having changed too much. 

This winter was a break in both senses. Respite from a fun, rewarding but more harrowing semester than I would have liked, and a rupture from a history of perceived slights by my hometown. I don’t know what changed. Maybe it was the first time I’d been back that felt truly post-pandemic. Visiting old teachers at school; meals, drinks and drives with childhood friends I hadn’t seen in far too many months, or who hadn’t come home in two years; long evening spent with my parents and their friends — the village that raised me, the sense that I was surrounded by more love than many people experience in a lifetime. 

A dear friend wrote in a WKND piece that “time is the enemy of longing.” In matters of love, I might agree, but in matters of home it might be the opposite. It was time that allowed me to finally long for home again.  Yale is still magical but its magic no longer needs to eclipse that of my childhood. My friends have changed too. 

Returning home is a radically different experience as a first year and as a junior. The first time you return home, all eyes are on you. The way you speak, dress, the amount and quality of friends you’ve made. Each measure of your happiness is still fair game for people’s insatiable social comparison complexes. By junior year, people have learned to let go. Each meeting feels like a blessing, bathed in the warm glow of a redoubled nostalgia. The social dynamics of high school have somewhat dissipated – everyone is happier to be back together. 

Most importantly, I am comfortable with my dependence on home. To return home as a first-year and jump straight into the arms of your parents is a sign of a rocky start to college. As a junior, it is healing. For three weeks, I slept deeper than I have in years, comforted by the presence of my parents, my dog, and the lemongrass incense lamp my mum bought when I was first scared of the dark. 

Perhaps, homesickness — like greatness — is not an effulgence but a burrowing. It appears not in pangs of longing but in bursts of excitement, as you remember yet another story you can tell the new people you meet. I can spend endless time with college friends and never tire of telling them new stories of home, or of asking about theirs – of the people, places and moments that made us who we are. 

PRADZ SAPRE is a junior in Benjamin Franklin College. His fortnightly column “Growing pains” encapsulates the difficulties of a metaphorical “growing up” within the course of a lifetime at Yale. He can be reached at

Pradz Sapre is a senior in Benjamin Franklin College majoring in Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry and the Humanities. His fortnightly column “Growing pains” encapsulates the difficulties of a metaphorical “growing up” within the course of a lifetime at Yale. He can be reached at