Weird. Fun. Awkward. Comfortable. These adjectives come to mind when thinking about the arduous journey from Penn to the old stomping grounds. Like most of the student body, you're traveling somewhere in the USA. If you're international, well, going home is practically a vacation so stay humble.
Going home is complex. There's the parent dynamic, the sibling dynamic, the friends–who–will–never–understand–Penn dynamic, and if you're lucky (or unlucky, depending how you look at it), the old hook–up dynamic. Let's dissect these worlds that await your arrival and fulfill their karmic duty to destroy you.
Your parents. They can't wait to see you. They've prepared your favorite foods, made your bed, picked you up from school, from the airport, from the train station. It’s mostly elation… until it’s not. It's easy for them to revert to the literal helicopters they were in high school. Remember they will never understand the responsibility you've gained from that 3 a.m. walk home from the library. Be patient with this particular dynamic and treat them with the respect of a parent who's missed their child for months. Send the annoying text that you've reached your friend’s house a couple blocks away. Pick up your sibling from their guitar lesson. These errands will help your break run smoother, and make all the winter festivities more pleasant, trust us.
Your siblings. They've been growing for months while you've been away. Spending quality time with them is so important for maintaining the bond. If they're 13 and have a girlfriend, take advantage of those teasing rights. If they're 25 and thriving in a new career, stay interested and excited in their life. Their growth is one of the most substantial things you miss while you study for midterms and Postmate pizza, so don't let this slip away from you. The sibling dynamic is arguably the most important to invest in, after all, they miss you a lot while you're at school.
Your friends–who–will–never–understand–Penn dynamic. This is a lot to unpack. In a room with your high school friends, finding common ground across several different college experiences is tricky. One of you goes to the state school, one goes to school where they live in bathing suits, another where skiing is the weekend activity. It’s weird not to share school life anymore and sometimes reverting to talking about old teachers and high school drama becomes stale. Keep it fresh by making new memories and stopping by all the best breakfast places.
The old–hookup dynamic. He might be your ex–prom date, she may be the woman you lost your virginity to. Either way, it’s cold outside and you could use some warming up. Message them, Snapchat chat them, slide into those DMs, whatever you need to do to create casual contact. They're just as into it as you are. What's a winter break without taking all that history you shoved somewhere deep inside you freshman NSO and letting it breathe for a while? This special person is: bored, check, tired of the ~scary~ relationships at school, check, and stalked you on Insta a couple days ago, check. A strange concoction of awkward and comfortable, this old friend is the perfect escape from the eventual mundanity of your hometown, after the magic of your childhood bed wears off and a full fridge stops being impressive. You might regret it, but it'll be worth it. In any case, it'll give you the confidence you need to brace the debauchery of the early January weeks.
A trip home wouldn’t be complete without some hearty R&R for the mind, body, and soul. These cleansing treatments include: running through those familiar hometown trails, yoga class with your mom, making your holiday pilgrimage to Sephora, and eating that treat from the local bakery you dearly missed. This self–care in all its forms will culminate in the person you could never achieve during high school—bearing glittery eyelids and toned arms that would leave all your hometown enemies weeping.
Breathe. Weaving through these worlds is no easy task. When your expectations creep too high, come back to Earth. Stay grounded. To “go home from school” implies we go to school in the first place. And have the means to go home. And have a home. Remember the responsibility that comes with attending college and the privilege of going home for break.
Let’s say you fight with your dad. Or run into a teacher at the gynecologist. Luckily, Penn doesn't give us much of a break, ever, so you'll be back strutting down Locust in, literally, a couple weeks.