When Your Family Moves While You’re in College: The Concept of Home

Ever since I’ve come to college, home has been a strange and ever-changing concept for me. I went to high school in a suburb of Houston, Texas but I chose to go to college at DePauw University in Indiana. And there’s pros and cons about being an out of state student. I love having this adventure in a new place more than anything, but it’s hard for me to keep in touch with friends who live in Texas, and I miss my parents and the comfort of being home. 

Or so I thought. Every time I would get the opportunity to go home to Texas, I’d get excited. I would get to see my parents and old friends for a little bit, I’d get to drive my car, and when I shared a room with other people at school, I’d look forward to having my own space again for a few days at home. But then I’d be home for a few days, and I’d start missing my friends at college, the rhythm of my life at school, and even being busy and feeling productive. For about two years, I’ve felt like my life was in two different places. Neither place felt completely like home. Sometimes, I felt like a visitor in both places, and other times, both places felt like home.  

But this past semester, my parents moved from Texas to a town in Maryland. I got the opportunity over fall break to go to my parents' new house in Maryland (even if it was only for 2 days) to visit. While I was incredibly excited for another adventure in another new place, I didn’t know how I felt about ending my Texas adventure. As my boyfriend drove me to the airport the day I went to Maryland, I started to not want to go at all. I wished I could spend the morning with him instead of on a plane, and I wished that I was going to Texas instead of someplace I didn’t know very well. I texted my best friend from Texas, telling her I was sad I wasn’t going to get to see her. It felt wrong to be going “home” and not getting to meet up with her at our favorite restaurant. I’d been so excited to go to Maryland for weeks now, what was happening? I couldn’t help but wonder the entire drive to the airport, would Maryland really feel like home? 

The short answer to that question, at least for now, is no. I felt like I was a visitor, which makes sense, because I was only there for two days. It would be ridiculous to expect that it would feel like home immediately. Being in the house felt odd. All our stuff was just in this place I’d never been in. I didn’t know the area at all, and I kept getting lost. The restaurants didn’t have food I was familiar with. 

But the long answer is a bit more complicated. When I was in Maryland, my parents did everything they could to try to make it feel like home, knowing full well that it might not. Mom had stocked up on my favorite foods, and while I was there, we went to an apple orchard and visited Annapolis for an evening. We went to restaurants that my parents had found while they were there, and visited an ice cream shop that they had been waiting to visit until I got there. My parents tried to make it feel comfortable. I tried to make myself feel more comfortable too. The first afternoon that I was there, I got so fed up with being lost and disoriented in our town that I got in my car and just drove around, trying to figure it out for myself, trying to make things feel more familiar. As I drove, I tried to figure out which of the radio stations in the area I liked and found quite a few. The little car dance party I had that afternoon was one of the best parts of being in Maryland. 

And while it didn’t feel familiar, like “home”, it felt nice. I felt cared for by my parents. I felt as though I could make a place feel a little more like home all by myself if I tried hard enough. 

So as I got on the plane to go back to Indiana, I tried to reflect over my experience the past few days in Maryland and try to make some sense of it all. But when the man sitting next to me on the flight asked me where I was from, and I honestly wasn’t sure what to say, I felt confused all over again. 

One of my best friends picked me up from the airport when I landed in Indiana and drove me back to campus. The love I felt that afternoon was the same kind of love I felt when my parents picked me up at the airport in a place I did not know just a few days before. When I got back to my apartment on campus, nobody had bought my favorite food from the grocery store, but one of my roommates had done a load of laundry and thrown some of my things in with her own. I felt cared for again, in my college apartment where my roommates and I had made lots of memories. Everything around me had gone back to feeling familiar. Being at school sort of felt like home, at least in that way, even if my address was something different. 

I don’t think it’s that I have multiple homes. I think it’s that I’m at a place in my life right now where home isn’t a place. Home for me, is people that make me feel safe. Home is the people who drive me to and from the airport, the people who are kind and loving to me. Home is wherever I make an effort to make memories. Maybe, someday, home will be a place. But I think because I have friends and loved ones in multiple different places now, I’ll always be able to feel as though I am home when I am with people I love. And you know what? I like that.