Coming Home for Homecoming

Elizabeth Stein

This weekend I went on a kayaking trip to Canada through Outdoor Ed. It rained the whole time. Add greasy hair, smelly neoprene wetsuits, the same clothes, dirt in fingernails, swampy muddy seaweed-y crap all over feet and no showers. For three days. Pretty much gag me.

I bet you can tell I’m not really an outdoors person. I would have probably died on any Wilderness Adventure trip (2+? I don’t think I could’ve handled even level 1. Maybe level 1?2. Do they offer that?). I don’t really consider myself high-maintenance either. But yet, somehow, the idea of not being clean sends shivers up my spine. Don’t get me wrong: I love being outside. I love fresh air and sunshine — I just would prefer to be able to have nature my way (my way means sitting on the grass on the quad typing on my laptop).

Princeton Review ranks Colgate as the third most beautiful campus in the country. But Princeton Review’s superlative translates to a reality that had a serious effect for me: one of the reasons I came to Colgate was the view. After the Admissions tour (and the chipwich of course), I sat on the ledge outside the library and looked out over the bottom of the hill, trying to decide if this was truly the place for me.

I was very homesick for the first time last week — the week prior to my kayaking adventure — since arriving here. I felt embarrassed to be one of the last of my friends to feel this way (that it took a month when some of them were easily homesick from the moment they arrived), but then all of a sudden it hit me. And maybe homesick isn’t even the right word for it. It’s more of a wave of emotion and feeling — not necessarily toward something in particular, maybe not even wanting to be home, but an unexplainable desire to just break down. I don’t know if it was just a weird week (three of my other friends weren’t in particularly good moods that week either) or maybe is was the fact that it was my birthday (which, apparently, makes it excusable that I felt homesick, according to everyone with whom I shared my feelings), but nonetheless I still felt uncontrollable.

I was advised and encouraged to stick with the trip (despite my reservations concerning my ability to have fun) because I was told that leaving campus would do me good. It was supposed to clear my mind and help me relax. I do think getting away though for the weekend was one of the best remedies, though it was not relaxing at all (quite the opposite in fact: I’ve rarely been more uncomfortable and stressed in my life). But coming home — home to Colgate — was indescribable.

I guess there’s just something — something I saw when I was sitting at the library during April Visit Days — about Taylor Lake and Adam and Eve and the willow trees and the stadium lights towering over Broad Street and the old classic stone nineteenth-century campus buildings and the mountains surrounding us that is just so completely Colgate, so completely gorgeous, that makes it perfect here.

Our Homecoming is this weekend. [The definition of the word “homecoming” is, according to answers.com (quite the respectable source of course), foremost that of the collegiate football game and celebration held for graduates and alumni.] Secondly, it means, most obviously, returning home. And that thought itself is one of the best feelings in the world. There’s nothing like your “home” airport or your own room or your own bed. Except our homecoming is not going home to our houses and parents in our respective states and cities. It is coming back here. And so that we would consider this at a foreign place without these comforts a “homecoming” must mean that this place is pretty special: that it’s just as good as (if not better than) our real homes. Is it weird that, though I’ve been here just a month, I’ve already come to see Colgate as home?

So as I sit on the Persson Hall stairs, an inspirational spot, recalling those same thoughts I had as a prospective, it’s ironic: a tour wanders past. I wonder how many of those high school seniors will make their decision based on the campus, how many will see (literally) Colgate the way I see it.

People often travel to the wilderness to get away, to be closer to nature, to get in touch with themselves. Except I don’t need Canada to do that: I have Colgate. I felt homesick last week, but going away made me appreciate how much I actually belong here. I admire those who have the heart to brave such an outdoor adventure, but the closest I’ll probably get to the outdoors again is shopping online for a new North Face jacket in my new home: my dorm room.