First-Year Focus: Reflecting on change

Returning home, and redefining it

I walk into the airport and it’s strange to be departing from Nashville, rather than arriving. I pass by the shops selling “Music City” souvenirs, the mini Honky Tonk that lines the terminal hallway, and see travelers excited to start exploring the city. An hour and a half later, I walk into another airport, but this one feels familiar, like home. I can’t help but smile as I walk out of the gate and towards the baggage claim. The shops that light up the sides of the terminal seem to be welcoming me back home.

Arriving back home for the first time since school started in August has felt a bit strange. In a way, it seems like everything was as I left it, but at the same time, many things felt distant. For example, I found that I had forgotten about certain things in my room, such as a favorite sweater, or the world map hanging on the wall that have always been there. I rediscovered favorite aspects of my house that I never thought I would forget so quickly.

Catching up with friends from high school over break also made me realize how much we have already changed in college. Most of us are scattered across the country, and the different experiences we have had in the past three months have led to revised ambitions, slightly diminished hopes, but also great memories and lots of laughter.

I remember thinking recent grads who visited their old high school acting like they’ve been away for eons were being dramatic. They would often wander into previously familiar spaces, such as the newsroom, and light up when they saw a familiar poster hanging on the wall, or become puzzled at any minor changes that had since occurred. Now that I’ve experienced coming back home for the first time since college, I can relate to their disorientation and nostalgia at familiar sights, people and schedules.

I never thought I would miss high school, but upon returning home and catching up with friends, I realized that I kind of miss being a senior. Yes, applying for colleges and waiting on edge for admission letters was a tiring time, but I realize how I took many things for granted. I knew college would be a change from high school, but I had unconsciously assumed that some things would always remain the same.

Seeing familiar faces, even that elementary school friend you occasionally see in the hallway but haven’t talked to since fifth grade, was the norm in high school, but something that has only begun to happen at Vandy. Having a structured day that felt familiar and routine has all but disappeared in college. With new freedom to make every decision, even little ones like where to eat and what events to go to, is a huge shift from the rigid schedule I had in high school.

During Thanksgiving break, I was surprised by how far away senior year of high school feels. I was shocked when I realized that during this time last year, I was still working on college applications. Hanging out where I grew up my whole life again felt like stepping back in time; many things remained the same, but I had almost forgotten about certain restaurants or shops that I used to go to all the time.

I found that I have grown used to Vandy and see it in some ways as more of a home now than my hometown. Sometimes I’m saddened at how quickly I’ve moved on from my pre-college life, but I think it’s also amazing how many of us have been able to already establish a new home for ourselves at Vandy. I think creating a new home for ourselves at school was one of the main goals many of us had starting freshman year. Although it feels weird that home is not what, or where, it used to be, I’m excited to see how Vandy becomes more and more of a home for all of us. I’m looking forward to all the new memories, favorite restaurants, hang out spots, traditions and friends that college will bring.

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