Homecoming has a different meaning for me than it does for most other seniors. Since my actual home is not even on this continent, in the four years that I lived in the purple bubble, the College became my second home in every possible sense. Between the first exciting weeks of freshman year and the unforgettable final weeks of senior year, the College gave me a sense of belonging and community that is irreplaceable. The College really felt like home; a place where I felt comfortable and safe, but one where I also struggled. I was happy, I was angry, I fell in and out of love, and I met people who I now consider family. This is why it was so hard to let go.
Letting go of things we love is usually difficult for two reasons. One, the things we love are simply amazing, so it makes no sense to let them go. Two, giving up what we love means that we need to go out there and find new things to love and care about. That’s why leaping into the unknown and leaving behind my purple home has been one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do.
For me, the initial shock of leaving the College stemmed mainly from the fact that my comfortable routine, structured around classes in Griffin, meals in Paresky and visits to the Red Herring, was turned upside down overnight. After graduating, I moved to Austin, Texas, and if there is one place on earth that is the complete opposite of western Massachusetts, Texas is probably it. Austin is a wonderful, versatile place, but 112 degree temperatures for a week straight, country line dancing, slogans like “The Eyes of Texas Are Upon You” or the classic “Everything is Bigger in Texas” and, of course, the one and only Rick Perry, have all contributed to the cultural shock that I experienced moving across the country.
However, I didn’t have much time to analyze the implications of my new situation, because graduate school took away any time I could spare analyzing things other than schoolwork. Reading three books and writing three papers has become my weekly routine, and on top of that I am responsible for assessing the work of close to 90 undergraduate students, some of whom are older than myself. The worst part, however, is that the people with whom I had shared my purple home, my friends, are not in this new place. They are, in my case, a three-hour flight away, and they are all struggling with the same issues that I am. The problem is that we are often too busy to talk about it.
The cruel realization that my new apartment does not come with a dining hall attached to it only added insult to injury. On top of coming home exhausted by the heat, work and life in general, I have to actually make sure my body is being properly nourished and exercised. Apartments also get dirty, and custodians seem to not swing by every day in the real world. There is nothing worse than a sink full of dirty dishes standing between you and your favorite show after a grueling day as an adult. The issue of never having enough money in the real world because of all those mysterious charges on your utility bills, such as “trash” and “waste,” is too painful to discuss.
The truth is that even though I sometimes think the opposite, I was ready to leave the College. It had become a little too familiar, cozy and, well, small. Mine is the perfect age to take a risk and do something crazy like move to Texas. I was given the opportunity to start over in a new place and meet new people who do not necessarily fall under the category “college student, age 18-22.” Not being in college means that I now work, not to get grades, but to develop and thrive professionally and intellectually. The thrill of having your work appreciated by some of the best in your field and having them treat you as a colleague is electrifying and makes you want to work even harder.
The College has to act like a good parent and kick us out, ready or not, because immersing ourselves in the real world is the only way we can grow as individuals. There is so much more to the world than the purple bubble and yes, it is scary and overwhelming, but few people hit the ground running right after college. That’s okay. It is also important to remember that just because our friends are far away and busy doesn’t mean that they are not there for us. Many of the people we met at the College will remain a permanent part of our lives. The point is this – don’t give up. Being nostalgic about college is okay, but we need to accept the fact that we do not belong to the College anymore. Rather, Williams now belongs to us; it is a part of our new world of expanded opportunities. It will, however, always be there for us to go back and reunite with those who made our college experience unforgettable. Williams is our home, our family. This is what we should remember during the Homecoming festivities.
Iliyana Hadjistoyanova ’11 is a graduate student in history at the University of Texas at Austin.