Is College My "Home" Now?

Now that I’m in my Junior year of college, I’m unsure of whether Pennsylvania or Washington, DC is my home. I’ve noticed that in conversations, PA has evolved from “back home” to “my hometown.” I don’t think that it’s important either way where you label home, but it can feel frustrating not knowing where that is anymore. 

It’s strange to feel independent in college, but at the same time financially dependent on my parents for tuition assistance. I am fortunate enough that my parents are able to help out in that way, but it does create an interesting dynamic where I don’t feel like an adult except in the eyes of the law for voting, and well, 18+ night clubs. Personally, I think that turning 18 was the biggest scam. There’s nothing extraordinary about it.

Home has a different meaning for everyone. For me, home has always been more of a feeling than a place. Up until college, I’ve lived in the same town my whole life, but never actually spent a ton of time in my house. I have a small family, so I was always with friends, at school or at work. The emotions that I had associated with home were being with people I trusted and loved, and not feeling estranged in any way. So, moving to college it was different to start over and be physically far away from those people. I had to rebuild and find a new family, which took a lot of time. There were times where I thought I would never find people that could measure up to my high school best friend, or locate a better place to spend a Friday night than the Downingtown, PA diner with an order of disco fries. Yet, I did just that.

When you open yourself up to new opportunities and “put yourself out there,” so to speak, you’re creating the space for new family and networks to build a new home. It’s definitely not the most comfortable time. It’s hard, and you will cry. Sorry—it’s the truth. The best piece of advice I can give to you on this journey of building a new home is authenticity. Be true to yourself and never forget where you came from. 

Just because you live in a new place, doesn’t mean your hometown doesn’t exist. Go back and visit every once in a while. You’ll feel the sweet bliss of nostalgia for five minutes... and then Google the nearest train station to get back to school.   

“Do you live around here?” asked a guy I went on a date with in DC. 

“...Yes?” I replied, unsure. 

“You sure about that?” he questioned. 

“Yep. I live in DC,” I said. 

I’m no longer a tourist, yet I still don’t know what I’m doing—and that’s alright.

Let go of this hometown limbo and explore your surroundings, create networks of people, and enjoy this time rather than focusing on labeling the physical location of “home.” Home is where your heart is, and that can be multiple places, amongst various people and groups.