December 14, 2015, by Emily Howard

“Home” for the holidays

Christmas break has arrived! It’s the first holiday for first years; a time when every fresher has to grapple with one simple (or, not so simple) word: home. Many students say they’re going ‘home for the holidays’, meaning that they’ll be returning to their parents’ or family’s house. Yet confusion then arises in what to call accommodation at uni – this is home too, right?

After living somewhere for a few months and making it personal, it’s only natural that when leaving campus after a day of lectures, or a getting a taxi after a night out, the phrase “I’m going home” slips out unconsciously. Whilst this is all very trivial whilst at university, referring to university accommodation as “home” around your family may be oddly provocative. Unexpectedly emotional outbursts from mothers whose chicks have recently flown the nest aren’t rare: “But this will always be your home!” Yes, mum…

The word “home” also poses problems for students who permanently live independently. Questions about whether you’re going home for the holidays can be tricky if your university accommodation is your home. Cue awkward silences or having to explain emotionally-charged situations. What initially seemed like a simple word can actually have deeply personal implications.

As a third year who shall soon embark into the big wide world, the job market, and real adulthood, I have recently embraced the foreboding independence and started referring to my parent’s house as just that: my parent’s place. Although the sentence feels a little alien in my mouth, it leads to no confusion. Of course, in my mind, it will always be home.

Being an avid traveller, I often refer to anywhere I am sleeping that night as home – be it a hotel in a foreign country, a stranger’s living room, or even a tent. Home is shelter, home is belonging, home is comforting. Conclusion: everywhere can be “home” to me. However this realisation wasn’t instantaneous, but the result of months – years, even – of self-exploration and questioning emotions of belonging and alienation.

‘Home is where the heart is’, ‘make a house a home’. We’re bombarded with the notion that the concept of home is easy, natural, and uncomplicated. Simple, right? Not quite. Don’t worry if you’re grappling with the word (or even if it leads to arguments over the turkey): it’s part of the transition to adulthood. So, you’re going home for the holidays. And that can be confusing. And that’s okay.

Posted in Emily