Sasha Kobliha: If home is far away, make yourself at home in D.C.

I’ve always been advocate for extreme – sometimes even reckless – change. Be impulsive, be erratic and above all, be adaptive.

With this mentality, I traveled a hop, skip and 3,000 miles from California to D.C. for my college education three years ago. As far as my freshman self was concerned, I was the modern embodiment of Lewis and Clark, braving the uncharted east coast territory on behalf of all those who had been too afraid to leave home for college.

And maybe I wasn’t alone in this endeavor: GW’s Class of 2019 boasts a geographic representation of 48 different states and 46 different countries. And the University has pledged to double its number of international students by 2023.

I’m not alone in my self-proclaimed “foreigner status” (although there’s inarguably a huge difference between moving coast-to-coast and country-to-country). And with all the knowledge I’ve gathered in almost three years as a student in D.C., I’ve come to this realization: I don’t think I should have left California.

It’s easy to be consumed by homesickness and it’s even easier to blame GW. But for those of us struggling to decide whether leaving home was the right choice, it’s helpful to think of GW and D.C. as a temporary home. It will help ease the transition into a new environment and give you a much better chance of actually enjoying yourself in college. Instead of getting hung up on how it’s not quite perfect here, you can just enjoy this time for what it is – it’s not permanent, and that’s the point.

My return to California was always inevitable: I love the beach and the concept of seasons confuses me. By positioning myself in D.C. for college, a place I never intended to permanently settle after graduation, I feel as though I’ve made connections, friends and memories with a four-year life span.

Of course, the distance is too difficult for some people, and they end up transferring. But lucky for me, GW has given me a profound sense of independence, and I would never trade the memories I’ve collected here over the years. However, the unfortunate truth is that for me and for many others, D.C. is temporary.

Of the city’s 315,000 tax filers in 2004, just about a quarter of that original group remain residents of the District, according to a report by the D.C. Chief Financial Officer’s Office of Revenue. This means that people aren’t hanging around for long, probably because of the area’s large population of political employees, interns and students who all see D.C. as their temporary home.

College in general is a transitional state. And recently, I’ve found it increasingly hard to bring together the two different lives I have scattered between California and the District. My world is in a perpetual state of temporality: I’m either in California, missing D.C. or I’m in D.C., missing California.

Permanence is something that out-of-state and international students sacrifice when they choose a distant school as their temporary home for four years. This is especially true when they leave behind all their extended family, as I did when I arrived in D.C. not knowing a single person.

But continually reminding yourself that you’ll only be here for a little while doesn’t help you adjust – something I’ve figured out over time. Instead, students who are suffering from homesickness and confusion about where they belong should make the most of GW for now – especially graduating seniors who may be facing the daunting question of, “What next?”

Build a community to surround yourself with while at school – whether it’s a club or your neighbors living on the same floor. Acquaint them with your friends from home and make a point of staying in touch over break. If you build a support base to lean on in times of homesickness, you’ll feel a lot less alone.

When settling into college, students tend to forget it’s essentially four years of limbo until the looming graduation date reminds you everything is about to change. You choose a life: here, or there? Those people, or these people? The decision is overwhelming, and is one I wish I wouldn’t have to make when the time comes.

I don’t want to discourage those with the same adventurous impulsion I used to have, but rather I want to offer a piece of cautionary advice. See everything and meet everyone, but expect to lose a sense of belonging – because I’ve made so many passing homes in people and places that I hardly know where to go.

Sasha Kobliha, a junior majoring in anthropology, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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