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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

What’s in a home?

As fourth week comes to an end, I encounter more and more reminders that in six weeks, I will leave behind the awkward yet grace-giving status of freshman-hood to embrace the label of “sophomore.” I can only guess what this change may entail, or what the next three terms will bring, but at least next fall, I’ll be returning to familiar grounds and faces, a certainty that has me reflecting on the past terms that brought me to this point. However, one aspect of this reflection cannot be answered or quantified by the collective Carl mindset of measuring the passage of time by the week or term: when did Carleton become home?

My Apple Maps marked 1 North College Street as my new home at some point in Fall Term. For me at least, this term was both a fresh start and a period of transition, offering a bridge from adolescence to the beginning stages of adulthood. In the midst of this upheaval, the exhaustion and dangerously high temperatures that came with this year’s New Student Week, my dorm was a somewhat air-conditioned area of comfort and respite, but it, along with campus as a whole, was hardly a place that I would identify with the word “home.”

Home was a place nestled in a suburb whose roads were so intertwined with memories that merely driving around them for the final time was like flipping through a well-worn scrapbook. At Carleton, I was away from my home of eighteen years and on my own, fully in charge of determining my own schedule and subsequent responsibilities, but at the same time, I was also living in a walkable community that provided me with three (…or two) meals a day. So while college as a concept and greater independence that accompanied it seemed new, strange and somewhat nerve-wracking, I felt lucky to have this foundational feeling of stability and structure to build off of, in a practical “how do I find Leighton” sense as well as a social one, coming out of New Student Week.

As classes kicked off, I found myself sinking into a schedule, reassuring in its regularity, but unlike my high school routine in ways that I had not expected. The blank spaces of my Google Calendar quickly became filled with work shifts and meetings for the extracurricular activities that I had attempted (and failed) to limit in sheer quantity during the Activities Fair. While classes themselves only occupied a few hours of my weekday, it felt like I was constantly working as the boundary between my dorm and an academic building, the balancing act that divided “work” and “life,” became increasingly blurred. As it turns out, when you eat, sleep and live at the same place where you work, it is quite challenging to separate these spheres and decide which one should take precedence throughout the day.

During this process of trial and error, adjustment and re-discovering who I am and what I want to do at Carleton, living on campus felt closer to a ten-week sleepover. It was an increasingly stressful one as the term went on, but was also a place that I felt so happy to be in that many of the people I loved were at most ten minutes away rather than half-existing endlessly in a dorm-sized cubicle. I wouldn’t say that I’ve even partly attained the mythical unicorn that is a ‘work-life balance’ — though it’s on my to-do list — but these initial friendships, originating from New Student Week, classes, clubs and elsewhere, made navigating a “work-work imbalance” a bit more bearable.

The literal navigation component of college was also made a bit easier due to the campus’ smaller size. Between tours and individual exploration, the previously unknown edges of campus and the many acronyms were less daunting. While it took a while to find shortcuts, feeling confident in my ability to find my classes themselves was one less concern to worry about during Fall Term.

This smaller size also meant that, though I struggled to learn the street names, much of campus became a collection of landmarks associated with a memory that I still hold dear — tossing a frisbee behind Watson, laughing at a picnic on Mai Fete and stumbling upon the druid circle in the Arb. (Some memories are more Carleton-specific than others.) While it would be near impossible to replace the sentimentality that saturates my hometown, Carleton, on my more wistful days, reads like a diary of growth and joy.

Maybe it’s due to the college’s small size, the friendships that I’m so grateful for, the fact that my suburban hometown is only an hour’s drive away, that I ended up staying in-state, a decision that I never saw coming but am so glad that I made, that calling my dorm “home” comes naturally now. I’ve no idea when this habit began, but I don’t believe that it was so much the passage of time as it was the quality of the time that I’ve had spent at Carleton that made this change seem instinctive, and in a way, inevitable. As I’ve heard and now experienced, college is a period of constant fluctuation, of growth both personally and academically. But it has also become a second sanctuary, so when I open Apple Maps and see that blue icon labeling my dorm “home,”  I really can’t help but agree.

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About the Contributor
Zoe Roettger
Zoe Roettger, Features Editor
Hi there!  I'm Zoe (she/her), and I'm a prospective Linguistics major with a Classics minor.  I love anything language-related, arts-related, writing & reading, and cats.  I also have a spider plant named "Pulchra," which, against all odds, is still alive.  When not testing my plant's resiliency, I can usually be found in Anderson or Blue Monday. Zoe Roettger '27 was previously an Arts & Features writer.

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