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Student picking up backpac and getting ready to leave
December 11, 2019
2 mins read

How it feels to go home after a term away

The fall after I left for university, my parents renovated our house.

That December, my dad picked me up from the airport. The prairie winter wind was so cold it felt sharp, but it didn’t bother me; I was just happy to be back in the familiar landscape of my childhood.

I enjoyed the comfort of the route back to our neighbourhood, the view out of the car window exciting in its predictability. I was a puzzle piece, finally returned to its rightful position, which was left ready and waiting in my absence.

That illusion shattered the second I walked into our kitchen.

Everything was different—the paint, the appliances, even the walls themselves had shifted. Even though I knew it was irrational (I had even seen the renovation plans before construction began), I felt betrayed.

My dismay that anything had dared to change while I was away quickly became a theme of the trip.

My parents, now empty nesters, had a completely different nightly routine that no longer revolved around me. My friends had new places to hang out. Some people were now in relationships that had taken over their whole lives. My little cousin seemed to have grown about a foot.

Other things remained disconcertingly the same. High school friends who chose to stay home after we graduated appeared stuck in stasis, with their social groups, jobs, and interests unchanged. Hanging out with them felt odd, like stepping out of time.

With the exception of one or two key people, I felt comfortable around no one. I wavered between feelings of displacement and superiority; I was always either irritated at things that had changed or certain that my new, worldly outlook was preferable to what I left behind.

Gradually, it began to dawn on me that my restlessness was probably not my home city’s fault. It was not just my parents’ kitchen that had changed—it was me.

My first three months at UBC were the longest I had ever been away from home. Like many first years, I made new friends, situated myself in a new school and a new city, and developed new interests and values.

Two students hanging out at a coffee shop

Many people will tell you that, when you live in residence, “the days are long, but the months are short”. So much happens every day that you don’t even notice the time passing.

You don’t notice that the shape of your puzzle piece is changing.

Coming home after your first (or second, or third…) term away is weird. You’ve been gone, and time has not stopped in the interim. It might be disorienting, but don’t let that keep you from appreciating the place you came from.

You chose to go away to university because you wanted a change. If you feel frustrated or upset by those changes, that’s okay. It’ll take time, but you will adjust.

For me, spending time with the people I still connected with helped. I got to know my mom and dad as actual people, instead of just my parents. I dragged my friends to the old haunts and learned to appreciate the cool, new spots. It wasn’t better or worse—just different.  

I adapted, and you will, too. Home will always be there, and you’ll find new ways to fit into it—even if the countertops have changed.