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Finding “Home” Through the Home Football Game

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

In early September of this year, I moved to Davis with a trunk-full of boxes shoved into my car and my mom in the driver’s seat to drop me off. I was leaving my family and friends back in LA in preparation for in-person classes, which I wasn’t too excited about. In all honesty, I was reluctant to be there; UC Davis wasn’t my first choice school. I was far from home, I had to share my space with three other roommates, and all I had to rely on was my bike to get me from place to place (which was very different from the car-centric city I came from, plus I was a noob at biking). 

In a short time, I already yearned to be back home. I just felt like I didn’t belong. I had gone to social events to make friends with the fellow UC Davis students who lived in my building but to no avail. Everyone was friendly, but I wasn’t able to make connections with anyone. My roommates and I were also awkward around each other, but we had occasional fun conversations and hung out together since we were the only people we knew. Nothing loomed larger in my mind than the question of friendship.

Several weeks passed, and the first home football game was approaching, along with the “Running of the 2nd Years” tradition across the field that the Class of 2024 missed last year for pandemic reasons. I didn’t know much about sports and didn’t plan on going, but decided to join so that my eager roommate wouldn’t be alone while watching. I thought to myself, “I might as well go to this, but I’m not running,” and I’m sure you can guess what happened next. 

My other roommates ended up coming along, and we left around 5:00 pm to walk to the stadium to ensure good seating. Soon enough, we got lost, unable to find the entry gate, and ended up right in front of the booth for the run where we were given a free game shirt to wear. All of the participating second years were herded like cattle, and we waited on the grass as the time passed to 6:30 pm, when the run would begin. With music blaring in the background and the voice of the crowd echoing, I could feel my heart beating faster and my legs shifting themselves into a running stance. Three…two…one go! A surge of adrenaline carried my body until I reached the end, and my mind felt at ease. 

UMD Football Field
Original photo by Emma Shuster

Throughout the night, I had forgotten all my worries about being awkward or making friends. I was just enjoying the present moment. From shouting in unison with everyone to cheer “Let’s go Aggies, let’s go!,” teasing the competing school with “Suck my Dixie” chants, screaming “MVP” to a cute dog that occasionally came to fetch a toy on the field, to doing crowd wave surges that had no end, I enjoyed every moment. In the hours we were sitting next to each other, my roommates and I bonded as well. 

When the game ended in our school’s victory and we began to go back home with flashlights in hand, we were followed closely by another person from behind near the freeway. Turns out it was another student who didn’t want to walk alone in the dark, so he accompanied us and we became friends.

Looking back on this day, I find it funny how much stress I put into making friends, yet they came naturally — sometimes in the most unexpected places — as I was being myself. It takes time to get adjusted to a new environment, and sometimes it can make you unmotivated to do anything, but I’m glad that I pushed myself to do things that I wouldn’t have done in the past. By going to the football game, I got the chance to nurture connections with those I know and build new ones with others. My roommates have become friends who I can rely on, and I’m thankful that we were able to get closer.

As school is back in session, there will be many opportunities to create your social circle, but don’t be worried if you haven’t found your place. Slowly, but surely, you will find a place that can be your “home away from home,” whether that’s a place or a person.

Kayla is currently a second-year studying English at UC Davis. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, dancing, and learning photography.
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