By Ellen Stenstrom, Staff Writer

I used to think that the hardest part about college would be lonely nights in my dorm room, missing family and friends from home. I was wrong.

Granted, everyone’s experience is different, but I found that between schoolwork, Netflix nights with my corridor friends and a juggling act of commitments to clubs and organizations, I was almost too busy and exhausted to miss home during my first semester.

Winter break changed that. It shook me.

I’m from a suburb of Chicago, so I hadn’t gotten to go back home very much first semester. I was ecstatic for Christmas with family and six weeks of sleeping in a full-size bed. For as much as I loved being at home again with my family, catching up with friends and visiting my high school, it was painful at times to see the people and places I love as they carry on without me.

It was a cruel little tease, like only getting one lick of a Graeter’s ice cream cone — getting a taste of home again, only to be violently shot back into the reality of second semester.

Maybe you can identify with this, maybe not. I have friends that could not possibly wait another day to get back to campus and reunite with their new “family”, and other friends that never stopped missing home. I wonder if I’ll be feeling this way a year or two from now, and if I’ll come across this article and hate myself for writing such silly, immature things.

But if I do pick this up again someday, I’d want to remind myself of a few things, too.

I’ll want to remember that home will always be home. That when I find second families and new houses, that home will always be there to come back to. That even when friendships come and go and people change and move, family will always welcome you back. That you never completely appreciate home and family until it’s gone.

I’ll want to remind myself that the person I am is shaped by everyone who has come in and out of my life and every experience I’ve lived through, good or bad. I am stitched together with the fabric of family and the tightly sewn string of friendship. Every teacher, coach and mentor has helped me along the way and inspired my growth. Every hardship and failure has shown me how to be strong and do things better next time.

I think it’s funny that people say when you go to college you’re entering “the real world.” That’s a lie. Miami is a bubble — a bubble of young adults and professors, bars and coffee, swiping a card to pay for everything, all surrounded by Ohio’s finest cornfields.

When was the last time you saw a child or someone over the age of 70? I can’t remember. In a bubble like Miami, it’s easy to forget where we come from and how we got here. It’s so easy to get swept up in the newness and independence of college life.

As an occasionally confused first-year, I’ll be the first to admit that first years can be a pain. But with the homesickness that comes with the first year of college, the desire to reconnect with old friends, the desperate need to find a community in which to belongs, I think it’s good to remember where we come from and who we’ve become.

stenstek@miamioh.edu

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