For thousands of freshmen across the country, the great roller coaster that is the first semester of college has finally concluded. It was a time of immense transition, a time of a considerable unfamiliarity and new experience and hopefully a time that will be cherished for all its high and low moments. It is now time for winter break, the time to head home and decompress before we return to finish our first year of college.
But going home looks different for each student. Many will return to their hometown to spend the season in their childhood home, with family and old friends, visiting all the places they've missed in college. Other students don't go home at all, for one reason or another. I am somewhere in between.
While I will be spending the break with my family, it won’t be in the place I consider my hometown. The summer before my senior year, my parents moved from California to Alabama while I stayed behind to finish high school. Now I will be spending the break with my parents in Alabama, except for a very brief visit to see a few high school friends.
When I first came to college, I thought I was unique in that I wouldn’t be returning to my hometown over the weekend or for holidays. But I quickly met several other students in a similar situation with parents who moved shortly after their graduation.
These students understand the difficulty of not going home for the break in the traditional sense. College was a completely new experience with very little resembling the life we left behind and now not even the winter break will bring back all the intimacy and comfort of a hometown filled with people and places I know. In the age of social media, it is challenging to watch all of my high school friends reuniting and visiting all the places I have missed in college without feeling sadness, longing and even a bit of jealousy.
Though I wish that my parents still lived in California and that I could fully return home for the holidays, it is completely out of my control. All I can do is try and make the best of the situation by realizing all the positives.
I have observed that several of the students at my school are still stuck in the past mentally, which has prevented them from moving forward in their life as a college student. This problem is only exasperated by returning home for the break.
Losing the most significant tie to my hometown, my parents, has allowed me to make a truly fresh start in college because I know I can’t go back. Getting only a taste of my hometown over the break will allow me to stay focused on college which is my life now. It will also make the transition back to school easier as I don't have to say goodbye to a place I love yet again like many other college students.
It is also a chance to build new memories. College is all about trying new things and this break will help me continue that tradition by exploring a new area and meeting new people. It will also help me maintain the sense of independence and freedom many of us find in college because I have no obligations in this new place.
One of the hardest parts of not returning to my home of the past several years is not seeing my friends. In college, I struggled with forging new friendships and often felt very alone so seeing my friends should have been a highlight of the break. And while I do wish I could see my friends more than just a few days, having only my parents and sister to spend time with has taught me the importance of family. Friends are amazing, but family is what truly lasts and when we have inevitably drifted away all but the most special of high school friends, family will remain.
Many college students know how much it sucks not going home over break, not sharing in the much anticipated home-coming that other students take delight in. And while I am very grateful I get to spend the break with my family, not going back to my hometown has been difficult, particularly after spending months at college away from everything I know. Still, students like me should take comfort in knowing they are not alone and that spending the break in a new place actually has many benefits.
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