Antonia Kladias

Now that I’m getting close to finishing my first semester of college, I’ve started to reflect on how my perception of home has changed while I’ve been away at school. When I’m at school, life is so fast-paced, and every moment is filled with something to do. Now, home is where I can let go and relax. In the past, school was never something separate from home, so I never had the same longing for home as I do now. I used to say I wanted to get as far away from my hometown as I could, but now I couldn’t be happier that I ended up as close as I did. I focused so much on the flaws of my hometown before, but now I see everything that makes home so special, and I have become quite protective of the town I swore I hated before.

Home is a place filled with memories — some of which I’d rather forget and others I hope I never do. The past now defines home far more than the present. I’m sure we all have different perceptions of home now that many of us are away. However, I’m realizing all the things I took for granted and all the things that are most important to me about home. Before coming to school, I never appreciated the simplicity of my small town, and now when I go home, nothing brings me more joy than doing all the things I considered boring chores before. The comfort of knowing the ins and outs of a place and knowing that a place has shaped you into the person you are is heightened when you come back from an unfamiliar place.

Feeling at home constitutes a sense of belonging and security. People find comfort in the predictability and organization of a home, which is something lacking in a college lifestyle. It’s difficult to keep a consistent routine at college, and I have yet to find a place that makes me feel completely comfortable. I still struggle with being able to relax. 63 percent of college students in the United States reported overwhelming anxiety in a 2018 assessment and, honestly, this isn’t very surprising. I think all of the anxieties I’ve had in the past over schoolwork have worsened since coming to college, because every place on campus is a shared space — making it hard to have a moment for oneself to recharge. This can be especially difficult to adjust to if this is your first time living in close quarters with another person.

It’s very hard to be separated from family and friends at home as you try to figure out who you are without them. It’s scary making new friends and developing into a version of yourself different from who you were in the past. Sometimes I worry I’m betraying my old friends by making new ones, or that my old friends won’t recognize and accept the person I’ve become while here. Despite this, I’ve realized that home is more of a feeling than a place, and that being away from home doesn’t take away from who I am. I’ve finally accepted that I actually have to live in my dorm room, and have found people who I feel comfortable around — people who remind me of being home.

Now that I’ve been away from home for a while, I don’t feel completely “at home” when at home. Seeing your college self in your childhood home or visiting all the places you used to frequent as a completely different person is strange. It’s weird to think about all the things I now consider normal parts of everyday life that the people in my hometown, with whom I used to have so many shared experiences, know nothing about. Being home still brings me so much comfort, but sometimes I feel like I’m intruding in my own hometown. I’ve started to feel bad for missing all the traditions or big events that have happened at home — it’s sort of becoming a weird case of hometown FOMO, or “fear of missing out.”

I didn’t think my perception of home would change as much as it has when I first got to school, but I’m glad it has. It has overwhelmingly made me appreciate where I grew up more, even if it feels weird being back home sometimes. I’ve become grateful for all the people and experiences that have shaped me into who I am.

Antonia Kladias is an undeclared freshman.