The moment when I saw the W.E.B. Dubois Library rise into visibility on my way back to campus last weekend, I felt an overwhelming feeling of peace. This emotion was far different than it had been a month earlier when I pulled into the driveway of the Templeton house where I had spent the first 18 years of my life. Now, I knew I was truly at home.
We may only call the University of Massachusetts “home” for around four years, but that doesn’t make it any less special. When the place where you’ve only spent a few months becomes a more defining part of your life than the town you grew up in, you know that it matters. And when you’re away from that place for an extended period of time, you start to miss all the little things you hadn’t realized you would yearn for.
If you live on-campus, you stop taking for granted how lucky you are to live down the hall from your best friends. You start wishing you were back on campus for 4 a.m. chats about life with your roommate, and you miss barging into the unlocked, welcoming doors of your floormates. You long for the enormous slumber party that college really is. You even get sad when you think about the familiar faces – the ones you never talk to all that much, but who are always there to greet you with a friendly smile and a “How’s it going?”
And of course, you miss the food. Berkshire Dining Common will become nothing but the ghost of fries past. You even miss Worcester … just kidding. Being in your hometown reminds you of what a blessing it is to have delicious, already prepared food constantly at your disposal. Sure, your mother’s cooking might be the best thing you’ve ever tasted, but you also have to wait for it – and hear your mom complain about how you never do anything to help her in the kitchen.
You even miss classes. You start to nostalgically look back on that gen-ed where everyone bonded over the really terrible professor and even worse, their grading policy. You miss the routine of getting up and leading a moderately productive life, even if you hate the actual process of waking up and starting the day. As much fun as it is to lay in bed watching all of Brooklyn Nine-Nine over the course of three short days, it feels a hundred times better to have a schedule you can follow – or choose not to follow on certain days.
And if you come from a small town like I do, heading from Amherst where you can walk pretty much anywhere, back to a car-centric environment is almost equivalent to hell. Here at UMass, the journey from the Commonwealth Honors College to Hampshire dining common isn’t that big of a deal, but in your hometown, if it’s like mine, it would probably take several hours out of your day to take a stroll for pizza. And you don’t even mind walking to class in the extreme cold because at least it means you’re here and you’re home.
Most of all, you miss the freedom that comes with being at UMass. Instead of being questioned by your parents about where you’re going, you can just head to Pita Pit at midnight whenever you feel like it. The freedom can be a little bit scary sometimes because you have the ability to either do the right thing or ruin your own life. It’s a struggle to find the perfect balance between school, work, and socializing. But as we all know, the difficulty is worth it. You realize that more than ever the longer you’re away; for absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
Gabby Vacarelo is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]