Homecoming is a unique situation — a strange amalgamation of emotions that are unrivaled, in my opinion, by any other experience I’ve had in college.
Homecoming, at least in the beginning stages, is boring, overwhelming and sometimes slightly bittersweet. It means that the summer is over, that the time for experimenting with jobs and side projects is over. It means reconnecting with friends that I haven’t seen in months, both people that I’ve tried to keep in touch with and people that I haven’t bothered to.
It means running into people around campus that I haven’t thought about since freshman year. It means hearing about hundreds of summer jobs and trying to act interested in the inevitable banality of unpaid internships.
Homecoming can also be quite exciting. It’s an opportunity to meet new people and try new things. It involves mass meetings and hoards of Google calendar events. It involves constant internal deliberation: Could I fit that club in my schedule? If I tried that activity would it ruin these other activities? Would I be okay dropping this activity in favor of that activity?
Almost by default, this becomes an annual referendum on my career goals. I’m forced to consider whether my classes match my career goals and whether my extracurricular activities provide the much needed supplements in today’s increasingly competitive job market. I’m forced to question whether my assumptions from last year are still true in this regard.
And once I begin to develop a regular schedule, homecoming can become disorienting. It forces me to rediscover the group of friends that I’ll end up spending the majority of my time with outside of class. Despite what I may think, I’ve changed over the summer. My friends have changed over the summer. Almost inevitably, I’ll be closer to some people than I was last year and further from others.
But as homecoming winds down, as I overcome my mid-college crisis and settle into a normal routine, the thing that stands out most in my mind is the excitement in the air all around Ann Arbor. It’s the excitement of over 44,000 students coming together again after four months apart.
It’s something that I’ve never experienced before and I’ll probably never experience again: a town filled with 44,000 people just like me, with 44,000 people around my age, all of whom live in the same town for the same reason.
I can’t think of anything more exciting than that. And as the many emotions of homecoming recede into the distance, it is this sense of opportunity that sticks with me — that feeling of returning to and rejoining a community that I am meant to be in. It’s the feeling of coming home.