Op-ed: Realizing the bittersweet nature of Family Weekend

I felt isolated and overwhelmed during my first night in Piano Row residence hall. Once my parents left, the distance between my dorm room and my Delaware home sank in. Throughout high school, I grew jaded with my hometown and yearned to explore new places. Because of this urge to explore the country, the decision to study in Boston felt intuitive. Yet as I sat at my dorm room desk, gazing out my window, I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision.

At some point, I realized that I wasn’t actually homesick, but rather afraid at the possibility of homesickness. Even though I now feel more comfortable at Emerson, it’s nice knowing that I will get to see my parents for Family Weekend. I’m lucky that my family is able to make the trip to visit me, but for many students, this isn’t an option. Whether it’s scheduling complications, long distance, or financial struggles, it’s challenging for many families to travel to Boston for one weekend. Although it’s intended to bring students happiness, Family Weekend can have the opposite effects for some.

Riddhima Dave, a first-year student, said that during Family Weekend, her family will be on the other side of the planet. As an international student from Mumbai, India, Dave said being far away from her family felt weird because she’s lived with them her whole life. She said she anticipates it to be difficult to watch her suite-mates attend family events over the weekend.

First-year student Belle Townsend lived in Kentucky her whole life before coming to Emerson and used to attend stay-away summer programs, which made the transition to college smoother for her.

However, Townsend said her parents struggled a lot when she moved out.

“I’ll still get texts from my mom every day. I feel like their separation anxiety is a lot worse than mine is,” Townsend said.

Although Townsend said the college transition has been easier for her, she said she still feels left out with Family Weekend approaching.

“I’m kind of sad because everyone else is going to have their family here, but I’m not going to have mine,” she said.

Townsend said the hardest part about moving away is leaving behind a place that felt like home.

“I miss the classic aspects of what a home entails. You know the place, and there’s always a safe space for you,” Belle paused. “I don’t really have that here yet. It’s easy to feel disconnected when you’re somewhere new.”

Talking with other students made me feel grateful that I get to see my family during Family Weekend. In some ways, having my parents visit me in Boston brings up some of the sad feelings I felt at the beginning of the semester. I know I’ll have to say goodbye to them all over again. I realize this isn’t the intended effect of Family Weekend. Being with family for a weekend should make me happy, and it does. But the hardest part about moving in was watching my family leave, and part of me is dreading that departure again. Even though I know I’ll see them again in a few weeks, saying goodbye is a harsh reminder that my family isn’t as close to me as I wish they could be.

At times, being apart from my hometown makes me feel like I’m missing a piece of myself, but in the end, it’s worth the experience of a new place. What I’ve come to understand is that home doesn’t have to be just one place. As more days pass at Emerson, the community here gives me a second place to call home.

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