Where Are You From?

“How was home?” is probably the first question East Coast kids get asked after they return to campus from Columbus Day weekend. I’ve found that it’s relatively safe to assume if they aren’t on campus, they’re back wherever they came from—from two towns over to upstate New York.
The difference, though, is someone’s answer.

“It was alright,” one of my roommates said when we were all trading weekend stories in the living room. “It doesn’t really feel like home, you know? I got back to campus and thought about how nice it would be to sleep in my own bed.”

The rest of us there agreed—somehow, in less than four years, Boston College has become home for us. The funny thing was, it was weird for us to admit that until now. In my first two years of college, I was always careful not to call my dorm room “home.” It wasn’t home, I told myself.

Home is in Los Angeles, where you have family and a full-size bed and a bathroom that you share with three people, not 30. But it still took a certain effort to just call it “the dorm” instead of home. It felt unnatural for some reason.

Lately, though, I’ve been slipping up. I tell friends that I’m headed home when they bump into me on campus and ask what I’m up to.

“Like, home, home?” they ask. And I know what they mean—hometown home, because I couldn’t possibly mean to call any other place by that name. No, no, I clarify. I’m going to my Mod-home.

We usually laugh at the confusion and keep talking, but I still wonder when BC became home. When did my roommate and I decide that it was okay to call dorm rooms, where we’d be living for less than a full year, home?

Maybe being on our own helps make this feel like our personal space. Maybe we’ve gotten a chance to break out in a way we couldn’t before BC by exploring a new city, new way of life, and new perspective.

I know that between my courses and my friends, I’ve learned so much about how I feel about certain issues or what I think we can do to make the world better. I know what makes me tick in a way that I had never considered before, and I’m not sure that I would have grown like that if I had stayed in L.A. and gone home every weekend. Going to school outside of driving range meant that I just had to make things work.

I’ve also wondered if it’s the people here, and not necessarily the place, that has made BC feel like home. Maybe we feel better because we’re surrounded by so many like-minded people who are intelligent and willing to learn, who have similar values but are also okay with having discussions about differing viewpoints.

We’re all trying to figure out what to do after graduation, how to manage our time better, and how to essentially function as adults. We’re on our own for the first time. There’s a level of understanding there, simply because we’re all at similar points in our lives. College kids might just be more at ease with each other because they all, on some level, just get it.

So, I think the definition of home varies for everyone. For some, it’s where you go when everywhere else has turned you away. For one person I know, it’s not the place so much as what she does there—she feels more at home when she’s doing some kind of volunteer work or helping other people. For others, it might be the right combination of people, place, and little adventures to take every day.

In the end, home, to me, is wherever I feel most comfortable and most like myself. For now, that place is Boston. The people are nicer than I was led to believe they’d be, there’s never a shortage of things to do in the city (and thanks to the T, there’s a way for me to get there), and the seasons—well, they actually exist, which is a more than welcome change. I’ve think I’ve gotten to know Boston better in almost four years than I got to know L.A. in 18 years.
I still wonder what I’m going to answer when people ask me “Where are you from?” a year from now, if I end up staying in Boston. Right now, it feels too impermanent to truly call it home, because I’m theoretically only here for four years.

But once I graduate and have to pay rent for longer than just a summer, where will I be from? Part of me desperately wants to say that I’m from Boston, but part of me thinks that that’s a lie. No matter how long I live here, how many Red Sox games I go to, or how many times I spend a day at the Gardner Museum, I might always be from L.A.

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October 19, 2014