The Phenomenon of Returning Home After My First Semester of College

For four straight months, I have been meeting new people, trying new things, and exploring a new city—everything that met my eyes screamed “new.” The days didn’t seem routine; every day I was doing something different or out of the ordinary. I would have days where my schedule was so packed that I was confined to the library. But I would also have days where I have the whole day to explore, go somewhere new, or do whatever I wanted to do.

I knew my life would change when moving to Boston. What I didn’t know was how much it would change, especially when I came home after my first semester of college.

December 18th was the day I was back on the old stomping grounds—good ol’ Sterling, Virginia. When my two best friends were driving me home from the airport, and I started to see familiar roads and recognizable signs around me, it really hit me that I wasn’t in Boston anymore.

It started with the second I stepped out of the airport—it honestly felt quite warm outside, despite that it was a mere 35 degrees. After living in a wind tunnel for several months where the wind has been close to lifting my feet off of the ground, I suddenly felt like my teddy coat wasn’t fit for Virginian weather, where wind chill didn’t have to be taken into account when dressing for the day.

I also felt that I didn’t have to have too much concern over dressing for the day because I realized that the majority of my time getting to and from places wouldn’t be spent outdoors. In a city like Boston, there were three options of getting places: walking, public transportation, or Ubers/Lyfts. I had to resort to the first two options simply because I’m on a college budget and didn’t want to spend over $7 to get from Point A to Point B. However, driving was the number one form of transportation in suburban Virginia, and it was something I had to remember how to do because there was no other option for me to get around.

Fast forward to the moment we reached my house on the main street, where the neighborhood is deadly quiet 90% of the time. I reunited with my mother and I spent a huge amount of time petting and cuddling my two dogs. I plopped on my couch in our living room, which was obnoxiously decorated with a Christmas tree that was rubbing against the ceiling as well as a Christmas village which covered three out of the four walls of the room. It was that moment where I realized I had three weeks. Three weeks to forget about dorm living, three weeks to shower without shoes on, three weeks to have regularly-scheduled meals instead of relying on applesauce and granola bars to fill me up before my next class.

The moment sunk in even deeper when I reached my bedroom with all of my bags, spick and span and spotless after many efforts of deep cleaning by my father. I gaze out my window, which overlooks the main road, the houses across the street, our front yard with six mini trees in a line parallel to the sidewalk, but most importantly, the sun. I had three weeks of waking up to natural sunlight instead of a brick wall, which I didn’t mind in the slightest bit.

I had a few days to unwind and relax from the chaos of the final days of the semester before finally meeting up with friends to catch up and have conversations over salads at Panera or pancakes at IHOP. I shared these sentiments with an Emerson friend days later, but I had no idea what to say when I encountered this question at the start of conversations:

“How’s college?”

The simplicity of two words can introduce the difficulty of expressing everything you feel inside about the most amazing four months of your life so far. Where was I supposed to start?

“It’s going well.” Too underwhelming.

“It’s the best!” Just another thing for them to nod in understanding.

I considered giving them the rundown of everything I did for the past four months, but that conversation would never end. After several conversations with the same starting question went down, I realized that I knew why it was so difficult for me to answer this question, no matter how simple it sounds to the human ear. There is no way I can explain the joy, sadness, confusion, excitement, nervousness, elation, and every other emotion that happened to me in the past four months in Boston to people who haven’t experienced it. Sure, they want to know every detail of what life is like after throwing the high school graduation cap, but the attainment of knowledge comes from pure experience and not a retelling of the same story.

Everyone’s experience of college is different, but one thing is for sure—you come out of your first semester having learned something that you can’t exactly express to other people, and that’s okay.