As the winter semester wears on and students settle back into their routine here in Cambridge/Somerville/Boston, some find it a good time to reflect on what “home” means during the transition-filled graduate school years. Below, 2nd year MDiv student Aisha Ansano shares her thoughts…
“Where are you from?” It’s a question I’ve gotten more times than I can count since I’ve been at HDS. “Well,” I typically begin, “I was born in the Caribbean, on a small island called Curaçao, but I moved to Durham, North Carolina when I was 10, and I lived in the California Bay Area for 5 years before I came to HDS.” It’s a long answer, but the only one that feels authentic – these places are all my homes, even though I now live in a wonderful apartment in Cambridge.
When I moved to the Bay Area for college, it felt like home in a lot of ways, but because I lived on campus, I never had a permanent address, making home always default to my mom’s house in NC. The year after I graduated, I finally signed a lease, but I knew I would probably be moving soon to start graduate school. I still went to Durham for holidays and over the summer, still claimed my mom’s address as my permanent address, still kept NC plates on my car.
On September 1st, 2013, the day before my first day of classes at HDS, I moved into my new apartment. For the first time in a long time, my stay there was indefinite. Even though my program would be over in a few years, I knew I might find a job in the Boston area when I was done. My boyfriend works from home, so it was unlikely his job was going to move us elsewhere. Over my first year, I fell in love with HDS and with the Boston area, and I don’t want to move any time soon.
A big part of what makes Boston feel like home for me is the HDS community. By the end of my first semester, I had made friends and was a member of several campus groups. I have study parties and cook dinner with friends, plan classes to shop and attend visiting speakers. I’ve gotten to explore Somerville, Cambridge, and Boston, gone to Walden Pond, and roadtripped up to Maine.
For my first year at HDS, I had booked my winter break travel in advance, using the same mindset I had in college: everyone goes away—goes home—over break for as long as possible, coming back just in time to start classes again. But while I was gone, I missed being here. I missed my apartment, I missed seeing my friends, I missed the opportunity to poke around Boston with the free time I never seemed to have enough of during the semester. Flying to visit my mom no longer seemed like leaving school and going home, but like leaving home to go home. I loved seeing my family and friends in Durham, but was anxious to get back to my apartment, to Cambridge, and to HDS.
Cambridge feels like home for a lot of mundane reasons, too. I have my go-to grocery store, my favorite take-out spot, and my complaints about the transportation. A friend recently visited and we took him on a tour of Market Basket, explaining the strikes of this past summer. I think the lack of lane markers on Mass Ave in Arlington is silly, not terrifying, and I’ve picked up some weird Boston slang, like saying rotary instead of roundabout. None of these things actually makes Cambridge my home, but they all make it feel like it is.
Seeing Boston as home doesn’t mean I don’t still consider other places home. Over winter break, I was visiting friends who still live in the Bay Area, and referred to landing at the airport in San Francisco as “coming home.” Though I mostly describe going to Durham as “visiting my mom,” sometimes I still call it home. And though I haven’t lived there for 15 years, going to visit my dad in Curaçao still feels like I am going home again. One day I’ll probably move away from the Boston area, and I’ll add it to my long litany in answer to people asking where I’m from. I may not have family to come back and visit here, but I can’t imagine losing the rush of happiness I feel when I land at Logan airport or step off the Red Line. The Charles River might not be quite so dirty anymore, but oh, Boston, you’re my home.