Finally Home

To wrap up my entries into a neat bow is not exactly the easiest thing ever. I have tried my best to give advice and tips to help students, to help freshman, with their transition between leaving a residential home and entering a new one. I have to say that these past three months have been immensely taxing emotionally, mentally, and physically. I can, however, say that they have been the best three months of my life.


It’s odd because the minute you enter into college, you will go to all ends of the world in order to find a sense of comfort. I tried to imitate my routine at home in which I would bury myself into my blankets in the dark and watch The Office. 

My roommate would do her laundry the same nights here as she would do at home. It’s interesting to watch how people adapt, how they change and mold due to their new found freedom. Some, of course, change faster than others and its not expected of anyone to instantly feel comfortable. I certainly didn’t.

We have, however, all adapted in some way. We understand the campus map, we are able to work the bus system, we are no longer in unfamiliar territory. So instead of writing and explaining how to feel comfortable here and how to adapt, I decided to write about what it finally feels like to be at home.

Many of my friends who are still seniors have asked me time and time again what college is like. I, too used to pound college freshmen with the same question, eager to finally be in their shoes. The only response I would receive was that college was fun. I was so dissatisfied with the answer. How can something so important and memorable in one’s life be only considered fun? Wasn’t college supposed to be the best four years of your life? However, I now find myself only able to answer the question in the same way my predecessors did. College is incredibly fun.

It’s not just that you’re around your friends all day, or that once you feel as if you find your place, you really find it, but that you are at last able to do it all on your own. We were once so dependent on routine and our home life, dependent on our parents and teachers to help us in our time of need. Friends didn’t have time to hang out because they had prior obligations. In college you make time to hang out because you start to actually enjoy the people which you surround yourself. You’re still dependent on your parents, but in the same way in which a working parent who makes majority of the household income is indirectly caring for their baby through buying baby food, diapers, etc. You take care of yourself. As a result, you find yourself and who exactly you are supposed to be around.


The work is hard, it’ll always be hard, but it’s so dramatically different from high school. I find myself actually wanting to learn and gain knowledge, not simply memorize equations and vocabulary because I am required to. You learn in one semester here what you learn in three years of high school.

My big is constantly telling me to not worry because I’m still a freshman, I don’t have to have it all figured out right now. We yearn to have a plan because it’s a natural instinct of ours. Eventually you’ll stop worrying and just enjoy college for what it is. I no longer have to dig a crevasse in my bed for me to watch The Office in the dark in order to feel some sort of comfort. That doesn’t stop me from doing it, let’s be clear, but it’s no longer about comfort or finding a home. It’s about finding yourself, as stupid as it sounds.


You’ll find yourself here. You’ll discover who you’re supposed to be, and what you’re supposed to do. That’s the one piece of advice I can promise.


Over these past three weeks, I have had the immense joy of finally being able to see two people who mean the absolute world to me. Although I was happy to see them, it made me begin to question when exactly does someone overcome homesickness and when does it really go away? Or does it even go away? Turns out, there is a cure for it after all.

The first person I got to see, of course, was my mom. As embarrassing as it is, we had one of those movie moments where we ran up to each other and plowed into a hug. I knew I was going to cry, that wasn’t much of a surprise to me, but I was completely overcome with happiness. I wonder if anyone else experienced this– I hadn’t seen her in two months and had only held phone conversations nightly. Being able to actually hug her again and smell the same perfume she’s worn since I was a baby blanketed me with such a strong sense of comfort. She immediately ordered me to take a selfie with her. I had never felt more close to home than in that moment.


That whole weekend we shopped and ate, and I never left her side for one second. We went to a small town a few hours away called Jim Thorpe and spent the day catching up. My friends had asked me to go out with them, even though they also had parents in town, and I was completely baffled. How could they leave their parents? They had the rest of the year to go party– I hadn’t seen my mom in what felt like so long. However, once my mom did leave again, I didn’t cry as I had anticipated. The first day they dropped me off, I was a wreck. I didn’t think I could survive the whole two months, but of course, I did. And I would survive four more weeks. I hugged her, and then she was gone. It gets easier, even if you feel as if it won’t. To see my mom again was the most needed thing, and I loved every second of it, but you learn to make a home wherever you are, and by doing that, it becomes so much more gratifying.
Jim Thorpe

The second person I got to see was my best friend in the whole entire world. It’s incredibly hard to keep up with friends in college, especially if you are both away from home, but this is how you make it work: put in the effort. We made sure to FaceTime each other once a week, text at least everyday, and plan one trip. Miraculously, it worked, and it felt as if nothing had ever changed.


I’ve known Brock since I was eight, and he was my first best friend, and still remains my best friend. For Halloween I went up to his school in New York City, NYU. How we managed to pull it off, I honestly don’t know. One moment I was hugging him goodbye, and the next I was on a Megabus to New York. It was the most surreal and gratifying experience. Just like I made sure to stay by my mom’s side the whole weekend and take her through State College, Brock did the same for me. Even though we were in a huge city, I still felt as if I was back with him in Austin. Once you see your loved ones again, it’s no longer saying goodbye, but rather saying that you’ll see them soon. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s completely true. You are no longer upset about missing them or saying goodbye, but simply are humble that you were able to see them at all.

We, as humans, have this miraculous gift to make anyplace we go feel like home. Through time, it becomes easier. You no longer have to force yourself to believe that this is where you belong, you simply feel it. And that, I think, is truly the best part.


I was waiting until I had finally settled in, waiting until the last possible second until I could see my parents again, for the moment in which I could finally start explaining the efforts, ways, and milestones it takes to make a home away from home. Over the past seven weeks I have blogged only about my family, my friends, connections we all have here at Penn State. The most important thing to include with all of those topics is how they tie together. In other words, what purpose do they serve towards the idea of being away from home?

The very first thing I learned in my effort to adjust to out-of-state life is this: get involved. I’m serious. I know everyone says it, it’s practically shoved down our throats the second we move in, but it really is the most important concept to grasp not just for kids who are in unfamiliar territory, but for any kid at all. Penn State is huge, and the only possible way to make the school feel smaller and less intimidating is by getting involved. My suggestion is to join something you normally wouldn’t. I, for example, came here with the clear intention that I was, under no circumstances, going to rush for a sorority. Two days in and I was hustling downtown to find a pair of heels and a nice dress. Word of advice: don’t do this. Come prepared, even if you think you won’t need those nice shoes or that pretty dress. You need it. Believe me.

Rush Dress example

The second piece of advice I have to offer is to call your parents. This may seem counteractive as if you’re homesick, calling your mom may induce more homesickness. However, I can honestly say that those daily phone calls have made all the difference. Even if it’s only for two minutes, calling your mom or dad can really improve your mood. Eventually those calls will be few and far between. Take advantage of them.

While it’s important to try something new, it’s also important to surround yourself with things that seem familiar. In all seriousness, one of the things that has impacted my mood and my level of homesickness is how much I decorated my room. By that I mean with pictures. It may be too late to do it now, but I recommend plastering every square inch you have with pictures of your family, friends, dogs, whatever. It’s very vital that if you’re anything like me, and you highly value your private space and area, that you make it personal. I’ve been inside dorm rooms that are blank, and it honestly makes me depressed. It’s always nice to have at least one picture of your golden retriever or of your family on Christmas vacation. It can brighten up any bad day instantly, I swear by it.


My final piece of advice is to really throw yourself into your studies. I think sometimes college kids get wrapped up inside the party life of college that they forget we are actually here to learn. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t go out, in fact I encourage it, but think of this slogan: Work hard, play hard. Weekdays (minus Thursday nights in some cases) are for school and homework. You have practically all weekend to do whatever you want. Consequently, getting used to blowing off classes and exams can really drag down your mood as well as your GPA. I’ve seen it firsthand. The moment you recognize that you’re falling behind and there may not be a way to catch up, you’re already too late. It’s practically impossible to try to come back from that. In the cases I’ve seen of this, the stressed out kids will more than likely say: “I just want to go home.” In moments of stress, our first response is to revert to comfort, which for a lot of kids is our home. It’s a vicious cycle. Seriously, study as much as you can. It makes all the difference.

Though these tips are simple, they’ve helped me a ton through these few weeks, and I hope they help everyone else as well.



Homesickness really is the worst disease one can have. I’ve heard of the Penn State Plague, and am aware that it is just a minor cold and/or flu, but perhaps being homesick is part of that plague.

I’ve observed that it’s around this time in which students are beginning to become more anxious about wanting to see their parents. My roommate, who has never been very vocal about missing her home, told me that she didn’t realize how much she missed her parents until this week, in the midst of parents’ weekend. Of course it makes sense– if you’re settled on the fact that you won’t go home until Thanksgiving, it’s pretty easy to detach yourself away from homesickness, even if you may experience it from time to time. However, knowing that you’ll get to see your parents again in a week, even if for only a few days, makes a student feel anxious and desperate. This, in turn, only makes adjustment harder.


Personally I never stopped missing my mom. With her being in Texas, of course it only became more difficult when she told me she was going to see a movie at our local movie theatre, an activity which we used to always do together, or was about to go shopping at our favorite mall. Though it seems mundane and trivial, these things were a special bond between my mom and I, which only makes them more difficult to forget. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. Homesickness is contagious, I think, and is the hardest thing to shake.
Famous Mural in Austin

College becomes more difficult not only because you’re away from home, but because you find yourself not being able to go home at all. All of my friends who are either from Philly or Pittsburg, even from State College, often express how they are never able to travel home because they can never find time. It’s odd because most people pick college close to home because it’s familiar– they grew up around the college, and want to be able to venture home. Slowly, that familiarity becomes lost just as much for in-state kids as it does out-of-state kids. I was once jealous of everyone who lived so close, even criticized them for not taking full advantage of being close to home. I only now realize that thirty minutes can seem very far when wrapped up in the life of college, which is becoming more and more demanding as time goes on. Students see parents’ weekend as a breather, a time for familiarity and closeness, something a lot of us haven’t been able to experience since we moved in.

There’s a lot of wiggle room in the topic of homesickness, as it’s different for everyone. But one thing is clear: we all love and miss our parents. I can see it when I see my roommate received a package of socks from her mom, the smallest gesture that meant the most. I can hear it when my friend is talking on the phone with his mom, and how much more he signs off with an “I love you, too.” We all feel it. It’s tough, but hopefully, that familiarity will come soon and put each heart at ease.


I have to be honest. The number one thing I miss most about home are my dogs.

I love my family, I really do, but my dogs are such a vital part of my home. Somewhere I’ve heard that a home is not a home without a pet, and it wasn’t I moved to college that I fully agreed with this statement.


When I rushed for sororities, most of my conversations with girls were how much we missed our pets. Numerous girls whipped out their phones to show me pictures of their dogs. One girl started crying she missed them so much. In fact, most of my Tweets are surrounded by the topic of dogs, because I know most people can relate to it. We all love our pets.

Why is that? Why are we so obsessed with pets, and dogs in particular, to the point where we get emotional just being away from them? Keep in mind, I am fully a part of the group of people that will cry once they see their dogs again, but why? Some say that dogs are the most pure form of spirit on this earth. They can do no harm, no foul in our hearts. We are almost disgustingly infatuated with out animals, and we can all relate to each other through it.


This post isn’t completely about dogs, but is certainly one of the leeways to it. Upon being at Penn for over a month, I have observed and studied different scenarios in which people connect to each other just by a single word. Dogs, food, stress, etc. We all miss aspects of home, and finding other people to relate to us about them makes us feel more at ease.

For example, I will show someone a picture of my dogs. The responses: “What are their names?” “What kind are they?” “They look just like my dogs!” “Ugh, I miss my dogs so much.” A connection with one dog, any dog, leads to a recognition, which leads to a memory of home. Someone mentioned their dogs, and you can instantly picture yours just by the word.

People can connect in the most odd, yet mundane ways possible. Food is a popular observance, as well. One time during dinner I mentioned to my friends that I missed Chuy’s, a Mexican food restaurant. Obviously, none of them had any idea what I was talking about, except for one girl. She exploded with recognition, joy, and instantly asked where I was from. I said Texas. It turned out that she was also from Texas, and had yet to meet someone who knew what Chuy’s was.
Chuy’s Logo

That sense of familiarity leads up to feel at home. Even those of you who live “right outside of Philly,” connect with other people similar to you every single day. Even if you’re from Texas, like me, it’s easy to find one connection. These connects make us feel not only one with our surroundings, but one with each other, and thus make living away from home a little easier.


I think the hardest things to leave once you go away for college are your friends. If you’re anything like me, you’ve had the same friends since fourth grade and have practically never strayed away from them, and you consider them an important part of the home aspect in your life. The difference between leaving your family versus leaving your friends has a lot to do with obligation. When you leave your family, there’s a tugging thought in the back of your mind that reassures you you will see them again. However, once you leave your friends, there’s a void, an empty space that leaves the mind to wonder: Will our friendship be the same? Here’s the all-important, cold truth– it won’t be.


My friends and I have known each other since fourth grade, a few of us earlier. I’m not quite sure whether we remained friends because it just felt comfortable or because we actually enjoyed each other’s company, but in the end, it worked out perfectly. My role in the friend group was to be the worrier. I always made the plans, paid for the tickets, double-checked to make sure everyone was there, so I was basically the mom. Everyone else had their roles, as well, just as many friend groups do. Although we were all very different in various ways, we were the perfect melting pot. Somehow, we seamlessly blended together. But because I was the worrier, and because I was always anxious about the future, I was the one to start asking questions about college first. What will we do if we all go out-of-state? How will we keep in contact, if we keep in contact? Will we even bother to see each other when we come home?

Sadly, all of these questions were answered in the few short weeks I’ve been at Penn.

I don’t think people realize that friend can break your heart just as easily as a significant other can, if not more. They can break your heart, and college is possibly the most influential outside factor for it. All of my friends went out-of-state. One went to Chicago, the other to New York, and one of them actually came here to Penn with me. Keep in mind we’re all from Texas, so this experience wouldn’t have been easy anyways, even if we hadn’t been such close friends. The thing to realize is that once you move, you start to understand how hard it is to keep in contact. In reality, it’s not that hard. Only one out of the three best friends I had continues to text with me, and they’re not even the one that came to Penn State.


The key to these relationships is effort. If you have no drive to talk, the relationship will fizzle out indefinitely. I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way. Surely there are other people who understand these types of relationships, the ones that sort of stop abruptly, but the truly sad part about it is how much you start to realize you aren’t that upset from it. Though you may see your friends as a home aspect in your life, the key to making a home away from home is to shed those old ties, especially the ones that want to shed you. From this, you’ll learn more about yourself, and about what kind of friends you actually want to keep.


Close Ties

As everything should begin, I’m going to kick off my set of entries with the basics: my family. I’ve heard the expression “you can’t choose your family” time and time again. However, if I was given the chance to choose my family, I can honestly say I wouldn’t pick differently. Cheesy, I know, but it’s very true. They are all very special to me and each of them play a different role in my life, as I play in different role in each of theirs.

I’m going to begin with my mom, and start by saying that she is funniest person I know. She’s from Arkansas, and if you ever talk to her, you’ll instantly know it. Her southern accent is so strong and apparent it even surprises me sometimes. Trying to describe her now is difficult– she is someone that is indescribable. She is so caring and determined, hot-headed and passionate, loving and stubborn, it’s hard to say what exactly she is. She’s a culmination of everything. She’s my best friend on some days and my worst enemy on others. I like to joke and say that it’s because she’s an Aries, to which she only glares at me. Though when she shows her soft side, it’s very visible. Last night she called to tell me that she spent all day searching for sea glass on the beach because I mentioned a few months ago that I love sea glass and wish I could find some (she’s currently vacationing in Florida with my dad). She’s completely unique and special, one of the most intelligent and beautiful people I have ever come across in my life, and is certainly unforgettable if you meet her. I am unafraid to say I love her with all my heart.


While my mom is a person who has to be talking to someone at every second, loves social events and meeting new people, my dad is none of those things. He prefers being alone and not interacting with anyone at all (something I completely understand). My dad can be summed up in one word: smart. He’s a computer scientist and loves to remind me of that whenever I need tech help. He played baseball his whole life, even coaching it at one point, which is something he does very well. Ever since I was little, he was always the one to teach me lessons. He taught me how to play sports, how to swim, how to use a computer, how to do everything. I’m the only girl in my family, besides my mom, so my dad and I are really close. We’re very similar in that we both love to travel and go on adventures, we both love dessert and if we are ever at a restaurant together we have to order it, we both enjoy building things together, and we love our alone time. My dad is more like me than anyone.


Let me just start out by explaining that growing up as the only girl in the family is tough, but it’s even tougher when you have two brothers who are both older than you. As horrible as it is, my brothers were downright sadistic to me as kids. They used to lock me in the basement and turn off the lights after I would watch a scary movie with them, put Post-It notes of random messages from “ghosts” throughout my room when I was sleeping so I would wake up in terror, tricked me into thinking that I was adopted and was found in the trash, etc. Of course they grew out of that, and actually learned that I had a lot in common with both of them. Colby, the oldest one, loves to read just like me and enjoys musicals and plays. He was the first one to hold me when I was a baby, and was the first person to teach me how to dance, which I ended up doing for twelve years. Of the two, he was always nicer to me as kids. As we grew older, that role changed to Connor. He’s the middle child and is by far the most problematic. Always grumpy and always moody, Connor was the child you could never coax to get to smile for a picture or even wave to a video camera. He does everything on his own. Slowly over the years, he became more protective of me, but still maintained an icy exterior. If you’ve ever watched Grey’s Anatomy you’re familiar with the character Alex Karev. Very rude and stand-offish to anyone he meets, though when he lets his guard down, it’s impossible not to feel everything he’s feeling and only love him more. Connor is a lot like that. Though we aren’t very similar, he’s the brother that will text me just to ask how my classes are going, or to give me simple words of advice. He cares more than anyone, which only makes him harder to hate, and thus harder to say goodbye to.


So, if given the choice to choose my family, I would pick the same people. Realizing that only makes each day seem tougher, each phone call seem shorter, and each day until I see them again seem longer. Despite that, they’re always able to make me feel at home with a simple word. Mom sends me pictures of my dogs every day, Dad always wonders how my math class is going and insists he can help me, Colby and Connor are always wanting to chat about college life. They always make me feel at home, even if I’m 1,000 miles away. That, I think, is the point of family.

Why Penn?

When I announced to my parents that I had accepted my offer from Penn State and was suddenly going to be thrusted 1,408 miles away from my home in Austin, the response was mixed, to say the least. My mom went into a total state of denial, refusing to talk about any state in the northwest region, nonetheless Pennsylvania, while my dad supported my decision with quiet affinity and was simply pleased that I chose a school he knew I would be happy at. It was at a constant hot and cold. So, despite what my family feels and despite what other people assume, I have to be sincere. There is no real reason why I chose Penn State. To be honest, I didn’t even know about Penn until I read Perks of Being a Wallflower and discovered that one of the main characters was attending there. My interest was further peaked upon watching the film adaptation of the book, and discovered that the main character I mentioned was played by Emma Watson.

I’d be lying if I said that didn’t have an influence on my decision.

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My choice sat well with me all of April and May. Though I still didn’t know why I picked PSU, it felt right that I did. My friends were supportive of me, my dad was proud of me, and my mom began to let her icy exterior melt bit by bit. She ingested herself into planning, researched everything she could, sent me links to blogs that offered advice for incoming freshmen. For a moment I thought that she had come to peace with the idea of me leaving, but there were still moments in which I would catch her wiping away a tear if I plopped down on the couch to watch an episode of Cake Wars with her, or even just said a simple thank you after she had eaten lunch with me. These were the hardest parts for me– the moments where I would witness her break.

Here’s the truth: it sucks. My mom always joked that it seemed like I was trying to find the furthest place away from her. Of course I knew it wasn’t true, but that didn’t stop me from only applying to out-of-state schools. Everything was so rushed, with no thought to it at all. I thought I knew exactly what I was doing. It wasn’t until after my parents dropped me off that I realized I felt lost. Until that point I had been completely sure of my decision. I suddenly didn’t know.

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Clueless, I Googled for help and came across an article that was directed towards my situation. One of the responses was that “when you get homesick, you really get homesick. You literally can’t do anything but wait until passes. And sometimes calling home just makes it worse.” I sadly began to identify with this on a sickening level, as I’m sure everyone has. Most of the students I’ve met are either from Pennsylvania or New Jersey, and could easily take a bus home. Some of them can even walk. I routed it– it would take me 28 hours to get home if I wanted to. It’s not exactly easy, and it’s very taxing emotionally. My dad said that whenever I feel homesick, I need to distract myself. How could I do that? How could I avoid thinking about my parents, my home? The answer is you can’t. It’s nearly impossible.

Instead of avoiding it, I decided to write about it. A diary, if you will, about what it’s like to not only be an out-of-state student, but an out-of-state student who suddenly changed everything they knew. This is the reality of learning to adapt, grow, and come to terms with a new atmosphere that isn’t comfortable. This is how to make a home away from home.

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