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Freshman anticipates difficult adjustment to home over winter break

By Elisabeth Turner, Special to Chronicle


I purchased an Amtrak ticket for a train leaving Penn Station days before Thanksgiving. Carrying a suitcase in one hand and a tote bag with large amounts of homework, I was anxious to get on the train where I could sit down and get some sleep.

While waiting for the train to arrive, I headed to Penn Station's Central Market, a favorite spot of mine. There are plenty of food options and a decent amount of seats – some of which are occupied by yuppies catching up on The New York Times during lunch breaks. I took a seat, slid my suitcase underneath, and then pulled out a notebook, figuring I might as well study for a test I'd have to take after the break. Running low on sleep, I managed to focus on the material for only 10 minutes before losing concentration to a sudden pounding in my head.

I boarded the train with anticipation. Home. I was going home! Home – where the word "taxi" is never used, where the night skies are filled with conspicuous stars. Home.

As the train pulled out from the station, I watched the skyscrapers fade into the background. I thought of the luxury and the poverty both seen between those very skyscrapers. Somewhere a homeless man was starving. Somewhere else, a corporate executive was ordering a new plasma television set for his Manhattan apartment. The train was leaving all this behind – I was leaving all this behind. I was leaving to go home to a county of cows and grass, of close-knit families and corner libraries.

Almost home, I stepped off the train into Harrisburg's stations, where my mother greeted me. We both got in the car to travel back to Lebanon County.

The next couple days went by quickly. It wasn't until Friday that I started my homework. Having written several paragraphs of an essay, I paused for a moment, listening for laughter from outside a closed door or thumping music from upstairs. I listened hard, but all I heard was a melody coming from the basement where my mother was practicing her violin. I listened for yelling and hard-to-tune-out noises, but I didn't hear them. All I heard was the violin and then – a deafening silence. I was home, not at Hofstra.

Why was I listening for laughter in an empty house? Why was I longing for something miles away when I was home? Were the peaceful cows and quiet roads not enough? Sure, back at Hofstra there are railroads and a glistening city full of opportunity, but shouldn't a loving mother, a warm bed, and home-cooked food suffice for a few days?

It was then that I realized, Lebanon, Pa. is no longer my home. Hofstra is. Home is no longer merely my shelter of residence, my dwelling place, but is instead, my place of acceptance. New York is now my home. New York – a city whose streets are filled with both success and sorrow of every kind. Hofstra is my home: a University filled with challenging courses, diverse individuals, and resources abundant. It is the place that I will be able to cultivate my dreams, to fulfill my destiny.

"Going home" for the holidays is something most students greatly anticipate. Perhaps they are excited to see old friends or revisit their hometown. For those of us that now consider Hofstra our real "home," let's embrace the moment. We may not be as thrilled as others to take that next train home for Christmas, but for the moment let's enjoy the here and now – let's enjoy "home." 

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