Students from near, far tackle different concepts of ‘home’

Daniel Ho/Staff

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For campus freshman Lovish Mujral, home is a BART ride away. In less than an hour, he is already back in Fremont, California, whether it’s to seek refuge from the stressful midterm season or to simply visit his parents for the weekend.

“Going home for the weekend definitely cheers me up,” Mujral said. “You just get reminded (your family is) always there to support you, they always have your back.”

While many students from neighboring areas are able to travel back and forth with relative ease, there are those who go months without visiting their original residence. Despite debate over which living situation is preferable, students have found benefits and consequences for both options.

Freshman Matthew McColgan, whose home is in Chicago, said he was envious when he was left alone during Presidents Day weekend and ended up working in his room instead.

“It gets lonely when the entire floor clears out,” McColgan said. “I’m jealous they get to go home and sleep in their own bed (and) get to see everyone.”

To complicate matters, McColgan has only a small window of time to talk to his parents because of timezone differences. They work long hours, and his classes typically end when his parents start getting ready for bed. But sometimes, he forgets about the discrepancy and calls when it is already past midnight in Chicago.

Campus senior Arany Uthayakumar, whose family lives in Pleasanton, California, said she was grateful that her close proximity allows her to extend her support system beyond Berkeley. On the other hand, Eric D’Sa, a campus sophomore from nearby Cupertino, said he does not frequently return to his hometown because of his campus commitments.

“I think the power of a choice and an option (of going back home) is a double-edged sword,” D’Sa said. “Yes, you have the convenience of going home and using a laundry machine you know works and can be reliable, but at the same time, it … gives (you) a reliance and dependence on that.”

Uthayakumar, however, said she fostered the same skills as any other Berkeley resident during her time here — and learned even more from her stint as a commuter during her sophomore year.

Uthayakumar commuted from Pleasanton to Berkeley five days a week for a semester. While she appreciated having the alternative to commute when her housing plans fell through, she described it as an isolating and tedious experience when trying to balance a social and academic life with all the troubles that come with the public transit system.

Additionally, both Uthayakumar and D’Sa have to juggle their family’s expectations of coming home more often as opposed to their peers who live farther away.

Resident assistant and sophomore Tony Yoon said he has not noticed any palpable differences between residents who live closer to home and those who live farther, though he did note that, as an international student from South Korea, he felt that homesickness was inevitable.

McColgan, who is one of Yoon’s residents, said he felt homesick during the World Series, knowing everyone in Chicago was celebrating — some of his friends even returned home from their colleges to attend the parade.

Another one of Yoon’s residents, campus freshman Edward Mu from the Twin Cities, actually visits his father — who works remotely from the Bay Area — once every week or so.

Nonetheless, Mu’s unique situation as an out-of-state student with a parent living nearby does not significantly affect his life at UC Berkeley.

“I know there’s a lot of resources on campus for me here that I have access to, so I’m not too worried that I would ever need him to be here, per se,” Mu said. “I just feel like there are disadvantages and advantages to going to college somewhere where you’re familiar with the location, but that wasn’t what I was necessarily looking for in a college experience.”

Although first-year journalism graduate student Anna Marsibil Clausen said she can easily stay in touch with her friends and family in Reykjavik, Iceland, with the help of technology, she sometimes feels homesick at times. So she relies on her community in Berkeley for help.

“It’s been very important for me to have a lot of international-student friends who understand what I’m going through, even if they’re not from the same country,” Clausen said. “They understand the international experience, they understand the complexities of adapting to a new culture.”

Yoon echoed Clausen’s sentiments, emphasizing the importance of meeting people when acclimating to a foreign environment.

“I’ve seen in the residents as well, they see college as a new home,” Yoon said. “They have new friends, they have new experiences.”

Contact Fionce Siow at [email protected].