Home is where the heart is

Home is where I feel at comfortable, but I haven’t figured out which place that is.

I was on my way to Edinburgh Train Station to begin a trip to Wales over break when I ran into a friend. Assuming he’d be going home over break, I asked, “Where’s home?” To which he said, “That is a hard question for me to answer. I have no home right now. My parents just sold their home in Germany and are in the process of moving to France, but have yet to buy a house there. My girlfriend goes to a university in Belgium and I go to a university in Germany (and am spending the year studying in Scotland).”

The technicalities of the response are emblematic of the “New Europe,” where the European Union has led to an increased mobility for citizens between member states, but, in general, the response struck me as resonating with my own feelings and the feelings of almost all the other students I know.

One of the definitions for home in the Oxford English dictionary is “the fixed residence of a family or household.” My parents have a fixed residence, and I, like most students will say, “I’m going home for X amount of time,” when I visit my parents, but I’m also just as likely to say “visit my parents” or “where my parent’s live” because their house is not my fixed residence anymore.

When I went back to Dubuque, Iowa, where my parent’s live, after my last stay in Scotland, I went to a party with them, where someone asked me where I live. “Well,” I answered, “I split my time between Dubuque, Minneapolis and Edinburgh.”

My dad was standing beside me and I wondered if he’d find this answer a little pretentious, but he just went on to elaborate on my time abroad. Dubuque is where I grew up, but I wonder if I’ve spent too much living away from it over the past four years for it to still be where I’m from.

Another definition of home in the Oxford English dictionary is “the dwelling in which one habitually lives,” and this is probably the definition most students think of when they say “I’m going home” when they head back to their flats and apartments at the end of an evening, even though they don’t own the dwelling and are probably only living there for a year. When I lived in Minneapolis this summer and visited a friend in Ames, Iowa, he introduced me to people from Minneapolis, even though we grew up in Iowa together.

The Oxford English dictionary says “to go home” can be used to mean to go to one’s “own district, or country.” Over New Year’s I?was a visitor in the United States, my home country, for two weeks. In Dubuque, I celebrated the engagement of a friend I’ve known since junior high. Now, less than a handful of my Iowa friends have yet to be married. Many already have jobs, are buying houses or starting families.

I’ll also be in Minneapolis, where only two acquaintances have been married so far. Almost all of my close friends in the Cities have also traveled abroad, are thinking about grad school, don’t know where they’ll be living next year and even those in serious relationships won’t be getting engaged anytime soon.

These are what my friends in Edinburgh are like, too. Sometimes it seems that there are more similarities between the people attending world class universities in urban centers of equal sizes in different countries than there are between the residents of “the cities” of 600,000 and a town of 60,000 in the same country.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” I’d define home as the place where I feel most comfortable, but I haven’t figured out which place I feel most at home at yet. It took almost three years for me to really feel like Minneapolis was “my home,” perhaps because it was my first experience living away from my parents’ home. With Edinburgh, it took only three months for the city to feel like home. I don’t know if any of my friends in Edinburgh have figured out where their home is yet, either. Only one of my friends has taken that crucial first step of declaring a place “home” ” buying a dwelling place, in this case, an apartment in Helsinki, Finland.

My German/French friend, someone else that stuck with me, said, “I’m not worried. I think I have many years to find my home.”

I think we all do.

R.R.S. Stewart is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected].