I’ve lived my whole life in the state of Connecticut surrounded by water, seafood, and the 2-hour drive to New York. From the beginning, I knew of the vast and obvious differences between Illinois and Connecticut, but settling onto campus reminded me of them every day. It was difficult for me to situate myself when I was so used to the hustle and bustle and was too occupied missing my home and family. It was then, like a slap to my face, I recognized the reality of going to college: finding and creating a new home.
The last time I saw my family was August 25, Quad Day. I remember my family and I were exited and overwhelmed by all the different RSO tables, the free stuff they were handing out, and the unbelievable amounts of people surrounding us in unbearable Illinois heat. After eating lunch, I took the 1S bus back to Ike. I remember taking photos with my family to capture the last moments we had together before I started my big journey alone. It was a very surreal moment. It didn’t hit me at the time that I wasn’t going to see my family until Winter Break.
A month passed and everything was fully processed: being away from my family, home, friends, living in a whole different area that felt like a wild exploration through a jungle of cornfields. I called my mom feeling pangs of devastation and hurt knowing that I couldn’t be with them until December. I missed my mom’s hugs, bothering my brother and sister about what they’re doing, having my dad hog the bathroom to brush his teeth. I felt so ready to graduate high school and start new, but at that moment none of that mattered to me. Everything hit me so suddenly while I was on the phone with my mom that I could not stop crying uncontrollably. We ended the call and I felt tired and drained.
All of the emotions I felt were jumbled into a bowl and mixed up together into this heaping overload of flavors. I had this internal conflict of excitement and freshness from being on campus, making new friends, and studying my passion and an uncomfortable wave of sadness from feeling alone. I was told by other college students that the transition was going to be rough, but I never thought it was going to be THIS rough. Nevertheless, I was patient with myself. Everything was so new to me and I knew I needed time. I didn’t feel guilty or regretted feeling what I felt because I knew it was normal. It made me appreciate myself and my support system back at home and on campus that I would often take for granted.
Realization & Reaching Out
The slow turmoil inside me stirred until it all exploded with a realization: I will be spending the next 4 years on this campus and have officially started the adult aspect of my life. I quickly recognized that there was no way to quit reality so I took a deep breath, and told myself that it’s going to be okay. I knew of my support back at home, but I also had a support system here on campus. While everything was new and scary, I knew that I wasn’t alone. I started to push myself to talk to others about my feelings of home-sickness. It was uncomfortable to mention my vulnerabilities to people who I have just met, yet they understood and showed sympathy and kindness. Dear new friendships were formed and I didn’t feel so alone anymore. They’ve created spaces of home for me here on campus when I was 1,000 miles away from mine. Such experiences and understandings can make us recognize how showing vulnerabilities, while scary, can bring people closer together, remind us we’re not alone, and allow for an easier and less scary transition onto campus.