Just Go Home

I called my mom on Monday and just admitted it: I couldn’t wait till next weekend. I wanted to come home.

It’s not that UF hasn’t been everything it promised to be. It absolutely has. It’s a large public university with great professors and lots of interesting people from around the country and the world. Not to mention literally endless groups, clubs and organizations with a myriad of fun activities and events going on every day of the week. But that’s why it can sometimes feel like a betrayal to really, really, really want to go home. I want to explain to the whole campus as I pack my bags that it’s not that I’m not having fun here and it’s not that I’m not an independent young woman, it’s just that…I want to go home.

As a college kid navigating a changing family landscape (my parents are in the process of amicably splitting up), going home is a chance to really check in, not just over text or FaceTime, but in real life. As a hopeless perfectionist with a strong type A personality (who may or may not have somewhat underestimated what it would mean to go to a highly ranked public university), going home is a chance to unwind and laugh. As a proud owner of a very adorable Pitbull, a spirited three-legged cat, a flock of sassy hens, two wise goldfish and an absolutely amazing black cat, going home is a chance to excite my allergies. Everyone has very different home lives. The fact that I have a family that accepts me, loves me and wants me to visit as often as I like is an incredible privilege that I am not unaware of.

But why does going home still feel like a fraught issue? Before moving to Gainesville this fall, I read a lot about college and college life. One thing I read was that going home too often could have negative impacts on one’s college experience. Lots of internet advice cautioned against seeing family in the first two months of college or going home before Thanksgiving. I get where this advice is coming from. College is an important time to expand your community and support network, have exciting new experiences and explore your identity independent of your family. Family relationships are also complex, which leads me to my first point.

There is really not a “normal” amount to see your family in college, so don’t judge others (or yourself for that matter) for how much or how little they see their families. It’s so complicated and unique to each person and situation. Now that I am at the halfway point of my first semester in college, I am a big believer in just doing what works for you and your family.

It turns out visiting family and going home requires communicating with your family and communicating well. This is a tip stolen from UF’s Preview and should be obvious, but to reiterate, it is absolutely necessary to talk to your family about what you need and how to make college work for all of you. Just yesterday, I discovered that some of my family had no idea I was coming home last weekend. This was on me. Familial bonds do not equal telepathy. I have found that reaching out in advance and explaining what is going on and when I would like to come home helps both me and my family make going home logistically possible.

Last but not least, I realized this semester that going home actually enriches my college experience. When I go home, I gain perspective on my life at college and coming back to campus is always so much fun. Going home for the weekend and coming back Sunday night can almost make my 8:30 a.m. Monday class seem less scary. I also found that when I’m struggling with the transition to college, when my anxiety is through the roof, going home and being around people who know when to call BS to my “I’m fine” response is the best medicine.

So, if you want to go home and you have the opportunity to, I say go. Take off. Pack all your dirty laundry in a suitcase and throw your homework in a bag and, at the very least, enjoy a change of scenery. You never owe anyone an explanation.