Leaving home and heading off to college can be terrifying, exciting, confusing, and thrilling—for the first time, you’re living on your own without adult supervision. You can eat what you want when you want, stay up late and sleep in until noon, go out with friends every night, or just stay in and eat ice cream. There’s no one to tell you to go to bed instead of watching that next TV episode on Netflix, no one to remind you to eat vegetables with your meals.
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That new freedom can be exhilarating, but also difficult to adjust to; you have to become responsible for yourself, and that can be one of the most difficult things about going to college. But once you figure out how to manage your time and live on your own, it gets easier and easier. The really tricky part is going back to living at home again on breaks.
Instead of getting whatever food you want from the dining hall, or cooking your own meal at your leisure, you’re back to eating with your family, when they’re ready, and you don’t get to pick the menu every night. At first you’re going to love having home cooked meals again, but you might miss being able to eat ice cream for dinner and sugary cereal as a midnight snack. It’s important to remember that meal times are family time, and that as much as you would probably rather have a cheeseburger than a salad, your parents haven’t gotten to sit and eat with you for several months.
You also have to adjust to physically living in your old childhood room again—with a different bed, different amounts of light, different sounds, and so on. When I first arrived at home on Thanksgiving break after living in Boston, I found the suburbs were actually too quiet for me—I needed more background noise! At home you won’t have the constant clamor of living in a dorm or apartment, which is great; but, at the same time, you can’t just walk out the door and have your friends and roommates down the hall. On the bright side, you don’t have to get up for any 8 am classes!
One of the biggest and most difficult changes to make when returning from college is finding a balance between independence and your parents’ wishes. At school, you’re free to do as you please—go to the store at 2 am, hang out with friends until midnight, go to concerts and parties, and have a good time. But when you’re back at home, you have to take into account the fact that you aren’t living that free and wild college life; you can’t just go to parties every night of the week whenever you want. Furthermore, your access to transportation at home may be vastly different than when at school. While at college, I could take public transport nearly anywhere in the city. Now that I’m at home again, I have to see if a car is available and drive to wherever I want to go.
This may cause some arguments with your parents, who are used to you asking permission to go places and do things with friends. After a year of living independently, it can be tremendously difficult to return to a more limited social schedule. When these situations arise, and it seems that your parents are limiting your freedom, take a deep breath and remember that you’ve been away for a while. Spend some time with family, and enjoy it while you can. Your friends will be around for the whole summer, and they’re probably having similar dilemmas with their parents. In the first few weeks of my winter break, I thought that all of my friends were having fun without me, and that my parents were being ridiculous by asking me to stay home with them for a few days. In reality, they just wanted to catch up and spend some time together. The key is always communication—tell your parents how you’re feeling, listen to their side of things, and try to understand where they’re coming from. You’ll find that talking it out rationally will most likely lead to greater freedom, as you’ve demonstrated greater responsibility and maturity.
Coming back home during the summer can feel limiting and restrictive, but it’s also a time to relax and enjoy yourself. Reconnect with old friends, go thank some high school teachers, and take the time to appreciate your hometown in a new light. Finally, remember that in just a few short months, you’ll be back with all your new friends at your school, and your collegiate adventure will continue on its way.
Abigail is a rising sophomore at Emerson College studying for a BFA in creative writing. She spends most of her free time during the year working for her school newspaper, but also enjoys going to poetry readings, spending time with friends, and cheering for her hometown Philadelphia sports teams.