I looked down at the shiny metal serving platters in front of me, one which had a piece of paper that read “Filet Mignon” and another one that said “Ratatouille." Considering that I had to look up how to spell these words to write this article, it was obvious to me that I was far, far away from home – in every sense of the word.
I’m from a small suburban town 2,000 miles away, in Gilbert, Arizona and I had never been to the East Coast before. I had never been on a train and I had never lived anywhere where there was snow. In addition to the physical distance, there were many differences between the culture in the “Orange Bubble” and the culture of my home. I had never been exposed to a place that seemed to be overflowing with money, where people would casually talk about their yachts back home and how they vacationed in places where I could only dream of going.
Like dozens of other college students, both at Princeton and at colleges all across the country, I felt the symptoms of homesickness. I cried when the plane took off and I cried as soon as I landed in the dimly-lit Newark airport. I called home often and I looked at old pictures of me and my friends, wondering why I took all the time we had together for granted. I had gotten so used to the people around me and the place that I called home, that the idea of anything different seemed like a completely radical idea. If you’re like me, it’s not so much a physical place that you miss, but it’s the idea of the past. But homesickness, while a side effect of moving, is also a part of growth.
Being homesick is a phenomenon that can affect the way you talk to other people and the way you perceive the world around you. You find yourself as an imposter in your own life, unable to create a unified version of who you are. You find yourself split between your old life back home and the new one you were seemingly thrown into. Addressing and validating these feelings is key to fostering an environment that really is all- inclusive and aware of all the troubles plaguing students. With an increased attention to these issues, the Princeton community would show compassion and unity for those students who might not feel included or welcomed just yet.
While it’s something that a lot of students face, it’s something that isn’t formally and explicitly talked about – and that is something that should actively changed. The idea of independence is often glamorized, and missing home is seen as a sign of weakness or a sign of immaturity, which is simply not the case. It’s absurd to invalidate someone’s feelings of loneliness and uncertainty, but it’s something that happens all the time. More than once, I have heard my friends say how they initially feel lonely and how they feel like everyone already has a friend group, when no one really knows what they’re doing.
In the end, your feelings of confusion and uncertainty and doubt are all normal — it’s all a part of what it means to grow. Often times people ask you “What are you going to be when you grow up?”, and while ideal in thought, it’s a question that never has one answer, especially when remembering the very essence of what it means to be a person. As a person, you are ever changing and multifaceted, and home is something that can be found in more than one place. While it is big and intimidating, Princeton can (and will) become one of the new places you call home.
Lourdes Santiago is a first-year from Gilbert, Ariz. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.