Oct 5th, 2017, 12:48 PM

Home, Sweet Home

By Marly Phillips Nicol
Image Credit: Pixabay/Falkenpost
International students describe their idea of belonging and home.

Home is where the heart is... Everyone knows this prototypical phrase or one that makes a similar point, but does this sentiment actually carry any weight? Will this concept of "home" keep a roof over your head? Does it come with hot water and electricity? At the end of the day is home where the heart is? 

As the world inevitably moves towards a trend of globalization and as transportation becomes more available to more people, traveling is becoming increasingly easy. There is now a tendency for young people to move away from their family home into a more adventurous realm. Whether this takes them on a journey traveling around the world, placing them in Thailand for one year and then Australia for another, or whether this is simply a move from the farm to the city, a person's childhood home rarely remains their home for their entire life.

Now although the Oxford Dictionary has many definitions of the word home, the most applicable in this case is the very first definition: "The place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household." However, this definition seems fairly limiting when you begin to consider how people live in the modern era. For instance, one person may view home more as a state of mind, another may view it as a strait of land, and yet another a singular memory.

In an attempt to get a more rounded conclusion as to what the definition of home could be, I decided to interview a few students from the American University of Paris as to how they see their home


Image Credit: Wikimedia/Chris Vlachos

Although many students at AUP seem to be modern nomads, there does seem to be a running theme between some of the students I talked to while writing this article. For Indie Jansons, a sophomore at AUP, home is complicated. She has moved over ten times and lived in four different countries. However, she was eventually able to distill it down to, "where my parents were born which is Seattle because they were both born and raised there. So even though I’ve never actually lived there that’s where we go to see family. It’s the one place I’ve always returned to, everywhere else I live there and never go back." Similarly, another student named Marina Borges claimed, "Home, ultimately, will become the one person that I love. But today it’s my friends."

Friends, family, loved ones… The trend continues. When I originally approached Ali Beau Nielsen, he shifted the conversation when I asked him to define home, he stated: "Home, to me, is a mindset." Implying that there were no real ties to either a place or the people that inhabit it, but more a frame of mind that allows someone to feel at home wherever they are in the world and whoever they are with. However, as he explored the definition more throughout our interview it became clear that his perception of home was closely linked to his family. He stated, "My mother always quoted her father by saying that 'it’s the people that make a place.' So, wherever my closest friends and family are, that's where I consider home."

"It’s the one place I’ve always returned to, everywhere else I live there and never go back."

The one outlier that I came across was a sophomore student named Joachim Fernandez who claimed that his family was too spread apart for one place or one gathering of people to be considered home. Joachim has lived in more than three countries and in over ten houses, and although many of the places that he once lived he once considered home, they are no more. In his perspective, there is a more fluid view of home. He stated, "I consider home to be wherever I have made myself comfortable…  Where I decide to make my living and enjoy doing so at any given moment." No ties and no singular place, purely internal.

It's hard for human beings, as social creatures, to separate two things like home and loved ones. Everything around us seems to change so rapidly that the only thing we seem to be able to rely on is family or friends.  Although the idioms seem to be cheesy, it seems as though they hold some truth no matter where one comes from. There are those who disagree or are outliers, and they shouldn't worry. Home, at the end of the day, seems to be wherever or whatever you decide to make it.