Home is not a place

One alumna finds home where she didn’t expect it


Barnard College Gates. Photo credit to Emil from Flickr, Creative Commons.

When Paige Robbins graduated high school and moved north to New York City for college, she would’ve told you home was in Texas. However, as her freshman year at Barnard College went on, she realized her home wasn’t what she had thought it was.

As a freshman, Robbins ended up with a roommate very unlike herself.

“She constantly was studying, and taking pre-med classes, and I was more into the holistic college experience,” said Robbins in a phone interview. “So, I wasn’t probably the most direct roommate, so I’d have things going on with me and I wouldn’t tell her and it would eat away at me.”

She cited the disconnect with her roommate as one of the main reasons for homesickness as a freshman.

“I did get homesick because I think I didn’t have a roommate that I really meshed with. So I didn’t feel like I had a place to call my home, because I had to live in this room with this girl that I didn’t really think was my family, and someone I liked spending time with,” said Robbins.

During Thanksgiving Break of her freshman year when most students return home to their families, Robbins was unable to go home.

“I didn’t think that was going to be a very big deal, but it turns out that it really affected me,” Robbins said. “My brother came down from Philadelphia, and we spent a couple days together, and that was really nice but after the first night, I ended up just crying to him. Saying I just wanted to go home, I missed everything, and it made me sad that I wasn’t there for Thanksgiving.”

During the break Barnard closed the dining halls, leaving students who stayed on campus (as Robbins did) to fend for themselves for their meals in the city. The students, most of whom live in the Northeast, emptied out, and even the city felt emptier, according to Robbins.

“It is very lonely, and I think that’s one of the reasons I felt so lonely and isolated, because it really empties out. You know, even the streets are emptier, because everyone is out of the state visiting family.”

In order to deal with her homesickness throughout her freshman year, Robbins turned to her mother.

“I talked to my mom anywhere from 2-3 times a day to every three days at the most,” Robbins said. This has continued into her sophomore year in college, and allows Robbins to stay connected to her family even though she is living 1,742 miles away. Robbins has been able to hear about the changes occurring in Austin, the feeling of “home” transferring from the city itself and the places within it to her mother.

Upon returning from college, Robbins expected to be reunited with the white van that she drove during high school. It was a place of home for her. When she came home to discover that she would be driving her dad’s car instead, it didn’t sit well with her.

“My car was really a place of home for me… I didn’t necessarily love it so much while I was there, but it was definitely a place where I could change in the backseat, I knew how to drive it, I had all of my little hiding places. So I definitely spent a lot of time in there, and then when I went back home, my brother was driving my car. And it was like my home had been taken away. And then when I’d drive my car, it didn’t feel like my home anymore because I hadn’t been in it in so long.”

This past summer, Barton Springs, a place that Paige had spent almost every day of her summer in between high school and her freshman year of college, was closed for renovations.

“I really had a home in Barton Springs for the last summer I was there, and then over the summer they were fixing it, and it was closed. I didn’t want to go, because I didn’t want to see it all new, since I identified it with the old place so much.”

ARS is a difficult place for her to come back to. After coming to the school last year for Homecoming, the idea of coming back wasn’t as appealing.

“I need to go back… It’s just the first time I went back it felt super weird. You know? I felt so attached to that building, and to the school, and just like building the school. And it was really a place of home for me. And then when I went back, it was just stripped of all of that meaning, because all of the people I was really close to weren’t there anymore… And it left me feeling very odd.”

Although Paige’s home has changed during her time at college, it’s also very much the same to what it was while she was in Austin. Her home is centered around the people in her life, rather than the tangible locations.

“In the time that I’ve been away from Austin, it’s changed a lot,” Robbins said. “I have a fantastical desire to go back to the old Austin where there isn’t construction on Mopac, and there aren’t millions of cranes in Downtown. In the sense of it being a long time since I’ve been back, my home has changed because of how much has changed. But I’m a Texan at home – I’m an Austinite.”