Defining Home – Miriam Jaffe

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, home is a noun, and defined as “the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.“ It implies permanent residence, and yet, it’s not always used in relation to total, permanent residence. Within a couple of months of being in London, I was referring to my flat at Queen Mary as “home” without a second thought. At the same time though, “home” also meant Vancouver, Washington, or the US. One word that meant many things. I realize that not everyone feels so at home when they study abroad, or come to feel like they belong there, but for me, that was absolutely the case. Even so, it’s a weird feeling to refer to multiple places at home, and now that I’m back in the States, it’s even weirder to try and balance living in my old home of Vancouver, with the emotional pull towards my new (now old) home of London.

“…people rarely mention the difficulties you may encounter upon leaving.”

People always warn you of culture shock before you begin your study abroad adventure, but people rarely mention the difficulties you may encounter upon leaving. For me, one of the most off-putting things has been how easily I slotted myself back into life on the West Coast. It almost feels sometimes as if I was never really gone, but based on everyone’s reactions when I see them again, it’s hard to forget that that’s the case. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been asked, “what’s it like being home?” since my plane landed back in the States. I usually just shrug my shoulders because what is actually home? Is it the place where my parents live? Or is it solely the place where I was before I studied abroad? If that’s the case, then physically, I am home, but emotionally, I know I’m not the same person I was before I left. That still begs the question though of what is home? And what am I meant to do with this bizarre “double life” I seem to be living (which would arguably be cooler if I had become James Bond while in London, but alas, the 007 life is not for me). It seems like my time in London was a lifetime ago, and occasionally, it feels like a dream.

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Adjustment is more than just getting used to a new time zone, or dealing with the fact that I have to drive everywhere now (or mourning the loss of hearing British accents wherever I go). It’s an entire process that almost messed with my brain because how could I have really been there for a year? How am I so comfortable in the states, when I hadn’t set foot in this country for nine months, and so much about where I live has changed? How am I meant to reconcile how I felt in London with the fact that now, it all feels like so long ago? I realize none of these questions have true answers, but my brain had a quick turnaround, and consequently, making myself feel at home has been an interesting experience. The moment I got home (to the states), I started mentally working on my scrapbook for my study abroad experience. I knew it would be massive, and let me tell you, it is indeed. Looking through all my photos brought back so many memories and putting them all together reaffirmed that this magical experience had, in fact, happened. Maybe for me, home can be everywhere, and anywhere, so long as I feel at ease there. Maybe home for me is less of an abode, and more of a feeling.

“Maybe for me, home can be everywhere…”

When I speak about London to people here, they tend to ask if I’m planning on going back. Although I haven’t booked a flight with a specific date yet, I do know that I will be returning at some point (I did after all, leave a part of myself there). How could I not? London was my home for nine months, and that’s the longest consecutive time I’ve lived anywhere other than my parents’ house. I know that I personally get attached easily to new places (leaving vacations was, and still is, torture), but there’s something different in the tethering I feel to London. I think it’s always a weird thing to think about how all around the world, people are going about their lives just as I am, only in different cities, and in different time zones. I’m even more hyper aware of it now whenever I have conversations with my friends still in the UK, eight (long) hours ahead of me. I know I’ve just changed my location, but as One Direction puts it, it’s crazy to think just “how fast the night changes” (I know, it’s not only a night, but you get my drift). Home changed quickly for me, and it’s been something I never thought I would consciously have to deal with. Perhaps for me, home will always be shifting, but regardless, I look forward to making new homes wherever I go, and having cities and places to which I long to return.

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