I spent the majority of this past summer at home in Georgia. I slipped into my old routines as if I had never left, feeding our cats and arguing with my brother just like I had throughout the better part of my childhood. Sometimes, it felt like everything was exactly as it was when I left last September. Of course, some things had changed; my mom was now the proud owner of an air fryer and cooked everything she could in it. My younger brother was now taller than me. I was interning in slacks and a button-up instead of lazing around in shorts. These changes were undeniably there, but the underlying feeling of home seemed to stay constant.
However, I slowly realized that more had changed than I had first thought.
It really wasn’t until the end of the summer when I began rewatching “Pokemon” – one of my favorite childhood shows – that I truly felt the significance of being “away at college.” I am the oldest of my siblings, but many of my friends growing up had older siblings who were “away at college.” As a child, this idea of being away at college felt enormously important; it felt like when I went away to college, everything would be different.
After getting into Stanford and starting my freshman fall, it felt like everything really was different. I was on my own (minus the meal plan, roommate, dormmates, RAs, RFs, etc.), and my daily routine would’ve been unrecognizable to the girl who opened the acceptance letter senior year. But soon enough, my life at Stanford was simply normal. Even going home for breaks didn’t shake that regularity. The breaks were either too short or too jam-packed with holidays to sit down and appreciate the changes that came with Stanford.
This summer as I dug into a “Pokemon” marathon, I suddenly remembered waking up on Saturday to watch new episodes with my brother. This triggered a flood of memories of growing up, as well as the sudden realization that this phase of my life was over. Sure, this house is still my permanent address in Axess. Sure, I can come back here as many times as I can afford the ridiculous airline fees to do so. Sure, I still have my room with all of my childhood furniture. But I will never truly live here again.
When I was a child, being away at college meant you were never coming back. You left home, and that was it. You’d come back at Christmas and maybe a couple of other times a year, but you didn’t live there anymore. I understood the idea in principle, but experiencing it for myself turns out to be an entirely different thing. It didn’t feel like I’d left, even though it’s now undoubtedly clear that, this time, the older sibling who has left home to go to college is me.
Moving back into Stanford for my sophomore year certainly isn’t as big of a deal as moving across the country for the first time last year. This year, I certainly won’t be greeted by screaming students in red shirts welcoming me to the next four years of my life. I won’t have NSO, or that moment where I say goodbye to my mom in my dorm room and realize that we’re now separated by a five-hour plane flight instead of a five second walk down the hall. Even so, this year puts me one year farther away from watching “Pokemon” on the couch with my brother, and one year closer to truly being out in the world as an adult.
Contact Kiara Harding at kiluha ‘at’ stanford.edu.