Entering college, I had a very strict, categorical definition of what home meant. To me, home was the idea of feeling fully grounded in the location that I occupied — a sense of connectedness to the city, attachment to the people in my network and an intimate familiarity with my surroundings. As I prepared to move to New York City for college in fall 2018, I stubbornly attached my idea of home to a very specific geographical location — the city in California where I grew up and from where I was about to move away for at least four years during a critical segment of my life.
Unfortunately, this resulted in a horribly closed-minded attitude when I arrived here last fall. I viewed college with a sense of impermanence: a brief hiatus from home that would only momentarily cause me to be placeless while I would still remain grounded in my community back home and remain in close touch with friends and family. All of this caused me to go through my first semester without truly being mentally present — I didn’t care much to form meaningful attachments here. Finding my community, integrating myself within the city and becoming familiar with the web of people around me wasn’t exactly my first priority, even though these are all things I value deeply.
However, after finally being able to go home during winter break for a full six weeks, I could feel my perspective shift. I was seeing the same familiar faces on a regular basis again, and the comfort with which I navigated through my day felt like a sharp yet refreshing contrast to how I moved about my months at NYU. I became more conscious of how much I valued community, and I also had the powerful realization that this feeling of comfort and interconnectedness didn’t have to be exclusive to my hometown. Winter break provided me with the sense of security I needed, as it assuaged any fears I had regarding losing closeness or loyalty with the people at home. This gave me confidence that I wasn’t in any way leaving behind the community where I grew up by trying to move forward and establish more roots elsewhere.
By the end of winter break, I felt much more ready to be a college student as a second-semester first-year than I did last semester. I now feel open to new opportunities, I am excited to get another chance to explore the city and I want to be more invested in new friendships. I believe more in my capability to fully be here without detracting from the way I am invested in my friends and family back home.
As more people are making their way around the world for work or study, it is important to be flexible and adaptive to new situations and communities. I am slowly learning that I am not doing myself any favors by being closed-minded about where I can feel truly grounded.
I now feel excited to take on my second semester and be mentally present as I do so, knowing that my home will always be there when I go back. NYU is not famous for its community within the student body. Nonetheless, I feel as optimistic as ever that eventually, with enough open-mindedness and a bit of luck, I can still end up feeling grounded within a small community I create for myself in this big city.
Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, print edition. Email Nosheen Hossain at [email protected]