A House Is Not a Home: Finding Your Place as an Out of State Student

Moving a thousand miles away from home for college always ensured I’d be asked one simple question: “Do you ever get homesick?” Surprisingly enough, I’d always confidently answer “No." The reactions I would get ranged from proud to confused to downright sympathetic, and I always had to quickly follow up my answer with “I’ve always been super independent and love to travel” to make it sound like I wasn’t a heartless b*tch who left her family in the dust. I loved that in a sea of Floridians, I got to tell a unique story of being an out-of-state student. The culture shock was the least of my worries when I moved down to Orlando two years ago, and the stories I’ve been able to share have made up for the lack of conversations coming from home.

I never truly experienced homesickness during my freshman year. Maybe it was the excitement of being in a new place, especially one with such stimulation overload. Maybe I was too busy exploring and getting to know my new friends and city. Maybe deep down, I never really had a deep connection to my hometown. Even throughout sophomore year, as the newness wore off, I continued to go about my life without the feeling of loneliness that most feel in college, even those who grew up just a few miles away.

I got to tell a unique story of being an out-of-state student

I started to wonder if something was wrong with me. Why do I not want to visit home more often? (Besides the fact that plane tickets are expensive, of course.) Why did I never keep in touch with my friends from high school? Why do I only talk to my family maybe every two weeks or so? Maybe I am heartless for turning my back on my past so quickly.

And then the loneliness started to hit me. This year, after two years of being in Florida, it started to sink in that I don’t have a “constant” down here. In two years, I’ve lived in three different apartments, have gone through several different friend groups, and have jumped between a handful of different classes, jobs, and internships. While I’m a huge fan of change, it all started to get a little bit overwhelming for me. The only thing that has remained constant in my life so far is my boyfriend who I met during my first week of college and has been by my side ever since. 

I started to go to him every time I felt lost. After all, he is my only “family” down here. But when he was busy and I was spiraling, I had nowhere to turn to keep me safe. I missed having something, anything, that I could count on, and putting that type of pressure on a physical human being (that isn't one of your parents) is a tremendous amount of weight to bear.

Two years ago, I never foresaw myself getting so lonely. Granted, I’m not sure if I miss my hometown per say, but I miss having the idea of a home. They say a house is not a home, and I have quickly discovered that a dorm is not a home either. No matter how hard you try to ignore it, every time you move, you leave a piece of you behind in the space you once inhabited. 

It’s especially hard when you leave almost everything you know hundreds of miles away and start a new life all on your own. 

As I now begin my adventure of finding my fourth apartment to move to since coming to Florida, I’m prepared to leave another piece of me behind at this one. Yet this time, I’m going in with the mindset that it won’t be as temporary as the others. It will be my first place that I can furnish myself, and the goal is to make it feel like as much of me as possible. 

No matter how hard you try to ignore it, every time you move, you leave a piece of you behind in the space you once inhabited. 

I want to be able to have a home to turn to in times of need. A bed to pound my fists into in times of frustration. A kitchen to bake in in times of celebration. A place to keep me grounded through all the wacky and wonderful transitions quickly approaching.

I love my boyfriend very much, and he will still remain an important constant for what I can hope to be a long time. But in the meantime, I need to find myself—and I need to find a home here in Florida.

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