Image description: A collage showing an airplane travelling from NYUAD back home.
Image description: A collage showing an airplane travelling from NYUAD back home.

Illustration by Alreem AlAbbas

The First Holidays Back Home

New perspectives gained, but familiar bonds strong: a story of growth and reconnection amidst coming home.

So much has changed and yet everything seems the same. The new year is approaching and I’m back at home, regaining my strengths, buckling up for the next adventure.
Sitting in my A1C dorm, I used to think of home and my favorite people there, and wonder how their life was, how their time was passing, while mine passed 4500 kms to the East. In the four months that I was gone, I experienced many things for the first time. I immersed myself into a whole new culture, started learning a new language, and made new friends, whose inputs, character and humor I now value. I started thinking about things I’ve never thought about before, and learned about topics that I had never encountered before. All of these things made me feel like I might be different now. I might go home and not fit in anymore — perhaps I would have to readjust to my most familiar surroundings, or they might even have to adjust to me, the new me that I brought back home from abroad.
On the other hand, I sometimes imagined that I would fall back into my comfort so severely that I wouldn't want to leave. It was hard leaving for the first time, but now that the unknown I set out for then is no longer unknown, what if I simply preferred my life back home and never want to leave again? I even wondered sometimes, if the validity of the friendships and connections I made, the experiences I collected abroad, would crumble when I’m back home, in confrontation with the life I loved so much. And then the day finally came, and nothing was as dramatic.
I landed at the airport and was shook by the heights my brother had grown into, no less than 10 cm added since I last saw him. I quickly adjusted to the cold weather, cuddled up in my bedroom, went out with my friends, and sat at the dinner table each night with my family.
Everything seems harmonic, and I take the time now to reflect on the worries and expectations I had and the way they played out.
Of course I changed, and for the better, I would argue. Nevertheless, the appreciation for my family and my hometown prevails, as it probably always will. Life at home neither sped up nor slowed down. I didn't miss out on more than I rationally had to, and everyone I value made their own gradual progress during the time that has passed.
My fear of not fitting in properly after being abroad was eradicated, and instead I got the empowering sense that I was contributing to the growth we all undergo by sharing the experiences I had made. The motions of family and friendship dynamics were way stronger than I had feared, recovering beautifully. I also don’t feel the need to never leave again.
Going to my old gym, what used to be my second home, I was struck by the timelessness of the place. The smell was the same, the people greeted me as always, the machines were at the same place and I fit right in, as though no time had passed.
While that was reassuring, it also reminded me of why I left in the first place. The eagerness to see more, learn more, and experience things out in the world came right back to the foreground of my mind.
The rhythm of life here is beautiful, and I feel even stronger appreciation for it, now that I know my stay here is finite. I already look forward to the next time I come back home, but part of this excitement is for the new experiences, the added growth I will bring back with me.
The reason I am writing this and publishing it is because I imagine many of the freshmen feel the same way right now, and most of the upperclassmen once did and maybe still do.
Mira Raue is a Staff Writer. Email them at
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