Back home

Last semester, I went abroad to Toledo, Spain. As a Spanish major, my time abroad allowed me to immerse myself in the Spanish language and culture. It also afforded me the chance to travel around Europe, and at the end of my semester, I jet-set to Japan, where I spent nearly three weeks in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. (Side note: While in Japan, I got to hang out with Japanese foreign exchange students I met at Swat and other Swatties who were in Japan as well. Never underestimate the travel possibilities when you make friends from different places!)

The hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo was invigorating, but it wasn’t home.

I’ve loved travel all my life, but being a longtime traveler is very different from being a long-term traveler. After all those months of packing and unpacking and packing again, I was ready for some stability.

What defines home? For me, it’s not completely linked to one place, but rather it’s the feeling that comes from being there. Swarthmore is home for me because when I’m here, I feel home. I’m a part of a community, I have friends who say “I missed you” after I’ve been gone for a semester, I have professors who invite me to their offices and want to listen to my travel stories, and I feel at home knowing that I am in a place where people are respectful and inclusive and quirky like myself.

In my opinion, home doesn’t mean boring or uninspired. Quite the contrary: there are surprises around every corner at Swat. During my stay in Japan, I discovered these beautiful flowers. Stuck onto leafless branches like tiny yellow jewels, the delicate, thumb-sized blossoms smelled like a cup of strong spiced tea. They stood out from the drab, dry-looking winter foliage and I snapped a few pictures, hoping to remember their smell forever.

I found these flowers while exploring the temples of Kyoto.

It turns out I didn’t have to wait to go back to Japan to see the little yellow flowers again—on my first day of classes back at Swarthmore, I discovered two of these trees on campus—and both were in full bloom. Over the weeks since classes have started, I now make a point to stop and smell the flowers on my way to class, happy in the thought that, while travel is nice, home is where the heart is.

…and here are the same flowers, with the Swarthmore greenhouses in the background!

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