Sarah Abdelkahlek: Don’t judge students who go home frequently

Media Credit: Cartoon by Julia Korsyn

One of the first things my roommate said on move-in day freshman year was, “I am so glad to finally be away from home.” Although I nodded in feigned agreement, I was disappointed about leaving home – even though I was just a 45-minute car ride away from my hometown of Ashburn, Va. As it turns out, I’m one of the few at GW who chose a university close to home.

During my college experience, I’ve encountered many people who cite “escaping home” as one of their main reasons for coming to GW. While there’s nothing wrong with going to a school far away, I haven’t met very many people who understand why some students may choose to stay nearby.

I go home a few weekends every month, and sometimes I’m ridiculed for wanting to see my family instead of embracing the city. My roommates, without fail, groan in frustration when they see me packing my bags for the weekend. My friends seem bewildered by the fact that I voluntarily choose to spend more time with my family and friends.

If you know a student who commutes to campus or visits their hometown often, try to cut them some slack. They may have reasons for going home that you aren’t aware of, and you should try to be more understanding of their desire to stay connected to home.

After considering the many pros and cons, I came to the conclusion that going to nearby university would be better suited for me. First, going to school away from home can be more expensive. While GW requires freshmen, sophomores and juniors to live on campus, students who live within a certain distance qualify for housing exemptions. I chose to live in residence halls my first two years, but plan to commute from home next year. I have been able to get the “full” college experience by living in a residence hall, but will also save an exorbitant amount of money on housing my junior and senior years.

Additionally, living close by allows me to remain an involved and active member of my family. I’m close enough to still cheer my little brother on at his basketball games and to go grocery shopping for my parents who are often consumed with work. I believe in supporting my family because they helped me get to where I am today.

I often rely on my schedule as a way of determining the best times to go home. In order to avoid neglecting duties at school, I make the conscious decision to remain on campus on weekends when I have lots of studying, plans with friends, or extracurricular activities. When I have very little to accomplish over a weekend, I take advantage of the free time and head home. I believe that home is not a place to avoid responsibility or conflict, but instead, a place to relax in the presence of family.

Living close to home is also a chance for my college friends to join me in escaping campus life. On multiple occasions, my friends and I have gone to my house just to play with my dog, or to take long night drives. At school, where stress and lack of sleep is all too common, it’s difficult to be yourself. Sometimes being away from such an environment allows for my true personality to shine. It may sound strange to some, but the times I’ve spent with my college friends off campus have made our friendship stronger than the times we spend on campus.

Of course, I don’t think students living nearby should become exclusively reliant on their family and never have their own fun away from home. Students who live nearby must find a good balance: going home enough without going home too often. Enough, in my case, means I’m still am able to spend quality time with my family, but can also focus on my own responsibilities when need be.

But living near home may not be the best decision for every college student. Some students may not have a close relationship with their family, and other students may feel like they need to move away to gain more independence.

I can say with certainty that being less than an hour from home has enhanced my college experience. I have enough independence while not feeling homesick. I’m able to make it home for birthdays and big events without having to make extensive travel plans. I get to enjoy home-cooked meals and have my bedroom to myself on days when I just need to be alone.

Most importantly, though, I’m able to spend quality time with family before the many responsibilities of adulthood get in the way. And I’ve learned just as much as a student and as an adult 40 miles from home as I would have 4,000 miles from home.

Sarah Abdelkahlek, a sophomore majoring in psychology, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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