Swarthmore: An (Un)familiar Home

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Today, The Daily Gazette welcomes a few new writers with an issue written entirely by first year students. Welcome to Swarthmore, Class of 2019!

My stomach sinks. The sharp edges of an (un)familiar street in Karaj soften out, radiating a familiar warmth. The light hits my sunglasses at a strange angle, so I can see through the lenses while maintaining a naked eye gaze.  I have been here before, in another lifetime, on a strikingly similar summer day. In a parallel life I could have easily walked down this road as a part of my daily routine. Which makes me ask, am I really a traveler here?

I often feel as if I am in two places at once, a living example of cognitive dissonance. My Farsi carries a heavy accent and I tend to ignore conventions of American grammar. I am 100% Iranian, and I was born to immigrant parents in Northern Virginia. Am I Iranian-American? American? Just Iranian?

Where is my home?

Before my first semester at Swarthmore, I decided to try to define what my home meant to me. It might have given me a slight existential crisis. I encourage you to have one of your own this semester.

Here are my (un)scientific findings.

“Home” isn’t a person or a place, but more of a feeling trapped inside a noun.

I’ve had other college students, high school teachers, parents, and friends, all ask me if I’m ready for the ultimate adventure in (un)familiar terrain. But what I’ve discovered is that trying to explicitly establish your home can trap you in a singular geographic state of mind, inhibiting you from new learning experiences, new people, and later on, new homes.

As early humans we were hunters and gatherers, following our sources of life across foreign lands. These travels shaped the human need and kick-started our critical development. Man learned how to walk, hold tools, and survive.

Our experiences and willingness to be open are what shape our homes. I’m here to tell you as your fellow freshman friend to place yourself somewhere you don’t really belong and let the conventionality within you take a nap. Avoid being so wrapped up in minutia, and just let the your new experiences flow through you. Maintain your outline and your bearing, but feel free to color outside the lines if needed. Be less focused on making a home, and let your home make you. As Henry David Thoreau once said, “In as many places as possible, I will get my feet down on the earth.”

As you tidy your dorm, hang up decorative trinkets, and line up your books, remember that you do not need to fill your room with things to create a home. Strike up a conversation with your roommate instead, or go have a chat with your RA. For now, I’ll keep to treating the paths in the Crum and the zig-zagged hallway in Dana as that (un)familiar street in Karaj, Iran.

It’s just another place to call home.

Featured image by Ava Shafiei ‘19/The Daily Gazette.

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