By Adama Kamara
After 5 weeks of being a student in Switzerland, I finally took my first trip outside of the country a few weeks ago. It was a week-long excursion with my study abroad program to Belgium and France. This trip was more wonderful than I could have anticipated, chockfull of museums, countless hours of acquainting myself with remarkable new cities, and entirely too many pastries to count. Despite my pleasure in doing all of the things and visiting all of the places that had occupied my mind for all of the time leading up to the trip, as the week was coming to a close, I kept finding myself thinking -and even saying aloud- I can’t wait to be home. The strangest part was not that I wanted to leave the grandeur that was Paris and Brussels but rather that by home, I meant Switzerland, a country I had only known for just a little over a month.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve found that my definition of home has shifted, it has become more fluid. Home no longer means the house where I grew up as it did for the 18 years of my life before I left for college. Although this “home” is the most familiar of all the places I have lived, it no longer brings me the same comfort it once did. My bed doesn’t feel quite as welcoming and my house seems somehow smaller, stagnant and unable to adjust to my growth. And though I’ve spent the majority of the last two years living at Emory, I can hardly call those dorms -so temporary and so accustomed to having people shift in and out of them like clockwork- home either. So now, I catch myself calling, Switzerland, this place in which I’ve lived for no longer than it took me to get my Swiss visa, home.
In spite of this, one of the challenges I’ve faced while living here has been feeling just a little out of place. I’ve gotten into a routine and made wonderful new friends but I can’t help feeling the slight strain of not understanding the language or the culture as much as I would if I’d actually grown up here; the feeling of always being just a beat behind on a song that everyone else in the room seems to know by heart. At the same time, I sense myself becoming a bit more detached from my friends and family in The States, too many thousands of miles away to truly stay connected to all of the things that normally ground me. The discomfort is subtle and doesn’t overshadow the experiences I’ve had, but the sensation of being an outsider in the place where I live, was one I couldn’t shake. That is until I left.
Leaving Switzerland and then being subject to the feeling of wanting to return, spurred the shocking realization that it had, over the course of a few weeks, become home-y. But with this realization came an awareness that in only a matter of time, I’ll be leaving, and my newfound comfort here will eventually come to an end. Though bittersweet, I’ve come to embrace the idea of accepting my contentment in this new place while simultaneously preparing myself for having to leave in the perceivable future. With this, I’m beginning to understand that my conception of home is not just fluid. Home can also transcend a physical place, as I once thought of it as. As I grow, and travel, and find myself in places I had never imagined myself before, I see that home is a state of mind; anywhere in the world could be home as long as I feel at peace.