It’s December 2013, it’s finals week at UCLA, and it’s cold outside. If anything, the changes in season can be a not-so-gentle reminder that time is passing.
I’ve been a resident of Southern California for just under a year and a half now, and my, the time has passed. I shouldn’t be surprised, every person who is older than me (and who will always continue to be older than me) always has told me about time flying. And finally, even as quick as it all has gone by, it feels a little more like home than it ever has before.
I never hesitate to tell my students that transition is hard. Really hard. I would gander than most person’s families have never really moved much in the last two or three generations. Maybe their parents were the first to leave the Midwest in search of warmer weather. But it doesn’t matter, because even if you didn’t move across the country for college or a job, it’s all still very difficult.
It’s also not atypical to fall out of love with a new environment immediately after loving it more than anything you’ve ever loved before. Really. It’s called a honeymoon phase for a reason: it’s short, it’s great, and it’s over before you know it. And when you leave the honeymoon phase, it’s always going to be a long climb back to making a place feel as comfortable as the place you felt before. (Assuming, of course, that you were comfortable in where you were before).
So after a year and a half of being in California, what’s the secret to making a place feel comfortable? What’s it take to make new digs feel like “home” ?
Unpack and settle. This may seem like common sense, and for many college students who do not have a lot of “stuff,” maybe a little less tangible. But even if you don’t have a lot of things to unpack, it’s always worth taking the time to decorate one’s living space, whether if be a residence hall room, apartment, or bunk space. It’s about setting an area where you feel comfortable, however that looks like to you.
Go out and explore. The first time I moved out of Southeastern Michigan and moved into Mid-Michigan, I spent a lot of time on my bicycle, riding around Lansing. I went to the Zoo, the state Capitol, all over Michigan State University’s campus, the malls, the local restaurants and markets, and everything folks suggested I do. When I got to Los Angeles, I spent a lot of time making a “bucket list” of all of the things that UCLA students did before graduation and a list of the major cultural establishments in the region. I’ve been to a LOT of them in the past 18 months, checking them off as I go. And you know what, when people come to visit, they say that I’m a good tour guide.
Connect with those that have lived here before you. It’s just as good as anything else on this list: talk to those who have grown up in the region, who have worked at the college, etc. What do regulars do? Do you want to be like them? Even if you don’t, you’ll know and that will make routine a little more easy.
And last, spend the time. I mentioned that the climb back to comfort would take a while. It will. The little comforts of life are not going to return with ease or a snap of your fingers, no matter how hard you try. It’s going to take time to find your groove, and while that might not be easy, it’s “okay.” Accepting that this is going to happen is part of the process, and it’ll make it easier to move forward when the time comes.