What do we mean when we talk about home? Is it a concrete space connected to a certain place, culture or beings around us?
In a dynamic world in which people globally are migrating for different reasons, such as traveling, studying, working or seeking asylum, it is becoming more common to move and live in places that we weren’t born in. And even if we were born, raised and continue to live our lives in the same place, wouldn’t our notion of home change when we develop and experience different things?
As an international student who is currently doing an exchange at UC Berkeley, I often find myself thinking about the concept of home. Where do I come from, and where do I go? But most importantly, where am I now? Where is my home as I keep moving from one country to another and as my relationships with the people in my life change?
I lived most of my life in Istanbul, Turkey until two years ago when I decided to challenge myself and jump into a new adventure by pursuing my bachelor’s degree in the Netherlands. Although I was already studying abroad, in a country that I was not born and raised in, it was not a question to me if I wanted to do an exchange or not. From my perspective, traveling while studying is a valuable opportunity to experience the local lifestyle, interact with new people, engage in different activities and observe the culture at the places that you visit. Since I truly enjoy discovering new places and cultures, as well as meeting new people, here I am now studying abroad, twofold.
I was trying to come to UC Berkeley without many expectations and be open to what life will bring, and still, I could not have imagined that significant changes would occur in my life in just a few months. While in this new environment, I experienced an incident that made me feel very unsafe during the first month upon my arrival and had a change in a relationship with someone who I identified a sense of home with. Following these events, I have started to connect with myself and the people around me more to create a sense of safety and familiarity in my life again.
Following these events, I have started to connect with myself and the people around me more to create a sense of safety and familiarity in my life again.
During this process of trying to reach out and be more attentive and caring, I have had the chance to meet extremely kind and generous people who I am happy to now call my friends. I’ve also relearned how to be content through the spontaneous encounters and events I experience in everyday life. All these physical and emotional changes are showing me again and again that life is dynamic, and although I think I have some control, change is inevitable. As I slowly surrender to change, I observe that it is important to be flexible, to transform and adapt.
Coming back to my inquiry about home, although we may have a specific location or an idea of people we connect with in our minds when we think about home, I believe that this mental image transforms as we do. Since life itself is an ever-changing journey, the physical representation we have for our home evolves through our experiences — what stays with us are the feelings and sensations we associate with home.
If home is a feeling, then what kind of emotions are connected to it? For me, home is a place where I feel safe, accepted, loved and grounded. Home is a safe space where I can let go of tension and just be. A familiar face, a kind smile, a loving heart, a touching melody, a specific smell or a feeling of being in nature can remind me of home.
How can we define home? More interestingly, do we really even want to define it? Rather than the traditional idea of home being a certain physical place with associated conditions and people, I think the notion of home evolves as it becomes more fluid throughout life. Defining home and emotionally attaching oneself to a specific image of home can give us comfort for some time, but what happens if the circumstances change?
When something happens to the house we named home or when the relationships with the people that we feel at home with change, does it mean that we don’t have a home anymore? I think it just means that a single image of what our home is disappears and another one begins to form.
Home is a familiar feeling of safety and loving acceptance. It is both within and without. Having a notion of home is a way of connecting to our hearts, emotions and needs, as well as relating them to the world around us.
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