I don’t remember the first time I said goodbye to home, but I do remember the feeling– like I was being punched in the gut, repeatedly. For awhile, leaving home felt like drowning during high tide. Distraction helped keep that choking feeling at bay. I found distractions through friends at summer camp and familiar camp counselors or distant relatives, all reminding me that home was just around the corner. My goodbyes turned into a friendly battle–a “frenemy” at best–a monster that would never swallow me whole.  

It wasn’t until I left for college, and I left behind my hometown that I experienced the overwhelming suffocation of a “goodbye”. This monstrous goodbye was permanent– or so it felt. I was entering a new stage of life: a life without my family or friends at home, a life without the sun in Santa Cruz and the leaves of giant Redwoods, a life without checking my weather app for the current air quality in San Jose, California. Days went by at Cornell where I was mostly fine. I had utilized distraction before, and I was doing so again– anything to prevent myself from coming face to face with the reality of losing “home” forever. I found friends and places I liked to frequent. I found a community. I joined clubs that I loved. I ate dinner at the dining halls every single night with my hallmates. I joined a sorority where I met my best friend. I went canoeing on Beebe lake. I read my books in the corners of centuries-old libraries. I visited Apple-Fest and went apple picking. I explored Ithaca like a local. 

When March 2020 rolled around, I was so caught up in my “distractions” that I didn’t realize the formerly soul-crushing goodbye I had issued leaving for college was now but a tiny, sliver of sadness. Home was no longer San Jose, California. It was with classmates, workers at the Big Red Barn, my Spanish professor, and the two dogs that lived in Dickson hall. Home wasn’t necessarily Ithaca, NY, but it was the familiarity, the coziness, and the people that made Cornell, Cornell. 

On a backpacking trip to the Catskills with Cornell Outdoor Odyssey (a club I joined my first year at Cornell).

So, I entered yet another stage of my life: saying goodbye (yet again) to home. During the pandemic, days passed in my childhood bedroom where I felt that sense of suffocation again. I felt split between two goodbyes and confused at where “home” really was. I eventually returned to Cornell and realized that home isn’t necessarily a singular “place” or “thing”; home could be as many places, people, or things that I wanted it to be. Yes, home is with my family or friends in California. Home is also with my friends in Ithaca, NY. Home will be many other places in the future, as well.

As I approach arrival day in Copenhagen, I hope that I will soon be calling Denmark home. I’m so excited to meet my host family and get to know the Danish “hygge” in everyday life. I know that despite the foreboding “goodbye”, I am awaiting a different sort of familiarity and adventure in Hamlet’s castle, Copenhagen’s coffee shops, and Danish flea markets. 

Perhaps the feeling of “goodbye” will never completely go away, but I know that I will have a home no matter where I go– with myself, new friends, and the host family that has already so graciously welcomed me. 

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