By Gabrielle Maxey
There’s no place like home.
Ask any college student who’s away from home for the first time. College life is an
adjustment for everyone. Those who come from out of town face the added challenge
of being away from family and friends. While navigating college courses, an unfamiliar
campus and a sea of new faces, it’s not unusual for homesickness to strike. But many
U of M students have found a small way to make their new "home away from home" feel
more, well, homey — by bringing a piece of home along with them.
|Hunter Lang, a music business and piano performance major from Jacksonville, Fla.,
finds comfort in a worry angel he carries in his pocket. His mother gave him the worry
angel before leaving for college.
Hunter Lang, a senior music business and piano performance major from Jacksonville,
Fla., brought a worry angel that his mother gave him before he left for college. "It’s
simple. It’s an angel inside a small clear stone that I keep in my pocket and I try
and filter all my worries into it," says Lang, a former Student Government Association
president. "I actually keep it in my pocket every day. It’s become more of a habit.
I more hang on to it because it’s my connection to home and less to actually take
my worries away. It’s been comforting to have."
Lang had been attending college in Boston when he discovered the U of M had a "superb"
music school and decided to transfer. "It’s really second to none," he says. "What
Rudi Scheidt has done for the School of Music has just been spectacular."
Alanna Rolli, president of Delta Zeta sorority, keeps a photo of her grandparents
nearby. "It reminds me of how close my whole family is, and how those two people were
the beginning of such an amazing journey," says Rolli, a senior fashion merchandising
and home furnishings major from Keene, N.H. "Their love for each other is something
that every family member talks about and is something that all nine of their children
Ashley Durham, a senior journalism major from Adamsville, Tenn., never travels without
a particular friend. "This is completely dorky. I actually have a Sylvester stuffed
animal that travels with me when I go out of town," says Durham, last year’s Miss
Tennessee USA. "When I’m at school, he has a specific spot on my bed. I have had him
ever since I can remember. My grandmother and mother have not only sewn him up many
times, but have had to go on emergency searches when I misplaced him growing up. I
bring him with me to remind me of home and special times with my grandmother and mother."
Shellie Epperson, a junior psychology major from Dyersburg, Tenn., doesn’t have to
look far for a reminder of home and family. "I brought my twin sister! She’s the biggest
reminder of home that I have here," she says. Sarah, a pre-dental hygiene major, is
identical to Shellie except for her short, choppy hairstyle. "We’ve always been close.
We shared everything growing up," says Shellie. When it was time to choose a college,
there was never any discussion of attending different schools. The sisters share a
duplex and even worked together in the after-school program at St. George’s Independent
School for a time.
Having her sister nearby helped Shellie navigate life in a large city like Memphis.
"We shared a car for awhile. If a location wasn’t on Poplar or Highland, we didn’t
attempt to find it," she says.
Deepthi Koolipara, a dentist who is pursuing a master’s degree in public administration,
brought along her mother’s sweater to fend off homesickness. "She has a red fleece
sweater which is so soft, just like her heart," says Koolipara, who is from Hyderabad,
India. "My mother is my best friend in this world. No one understands me like she
does. Her sweater always reminds me of the beautiful moments we had together, the
days we spent on weekends together. I remember the words she said to me when I was
leaving home: ‘Baby, do not give up for any reason. What ever happens is for your
good. Trust God and work hard, you will reach your destiny.’ Whenever I feel homesick,
I just take the sweater into my hands, remember her words, and I can feel the warmth
of her touch and go to sleep."
Misbah Razmi brought many things to the U of M to remind her of her home in Pune,
India: pictures, photo frames, figurines, jewelry and traditional clothes. But the
item that is the most special to her is a handi, a kitchen utensil her mother used to make rice. "It was my mom’s favorite utensil,
and she had been using it for the past 15 years to cook rice," says Razmi, a graduate
student in management information systems. "I had forgotten to buy a similar one,
and I remembered it at the last minute. I was about to go to the store to buy one
when my mom gave it to me and laughed, saying ‘Take this and remember me whenever
you cook rice.’ At the time, I thought it was funny, but little did I know it would
remind me of my mom and my home every single time I cook rice. That utensil is the
thing that reminds me the most about home, and I cook rice in it almost every day."
Andreas Guentner, a junior international business major, has two items at the U of
that help keep him close to home even thousands of miles away. "The German flag reminds
me of where I am from and how great Germany is, and it reminds me of the attributes
Germans have," says Guentner, a midfielder/defender on the Tiger soccer team.
Before he left for the U of M, a friend designed a toddler-size yellow T-shirt for
Guentner with the words Regensburg, die schoenste stadt der welt ("Regensburg, the most beautiful city in the world") and drew a picture on it. (His
friend couldn’t find an adult-sized T-shirt at the time.) "The shirt just reminds
me of my city and my family and friends. I also have a picture of my city as background
on my desktop so I can always see it. With Facebook and with how busy we are, there
is not much time to miss home. Then there is Skype. So I have my family
and friends somewhat around."
|U of M students often bring a reminder of home with them to college. Clockwise, from
left, are Deepthi Koolipara, Shellie and Sarah Epperson, John Stevenson, Andreas Guentner,
Leslie Berry, Lewis Ellis and Misbah Razmi.
Lewis Ellis, a freshman from Cowbridge, Wales, also brought a flag to remind him of
home. "My Welsh flag is hung up above my bed. It’s pretty big in size and it just
reminds me of home and my roots," says Ellis, who also plays on the Tiger soccer team.
"I used to go to a boarding school in England and the same Welsh flag I used there
is here in America."
John Stevenson, an avid roller coaster enthusiast, can cover himself with memories
of family and fun from home. A member of his church, Bartlett United Methodist, makes
T-shirt quilts for graduating high school seniors, and put one together for Stevenson
from his collection of T-shirts from amusement parks. Several of the shirts are from
Six Flags parks around the country; others are from sites like Libertyland and Dollywood.
"Each one has a story behind it," says Stevenson, a junior journalism major from Bartlett.
"I have one from a family trip to Disney World when I was a freshman in high school
that brings back good memories. One from the Six Flags in Chicago reminds me of family
I have up there. I go there several times a year, it’s like my second home."
Stevenson says he had forgotten about most of the T-shirts before they were transformed
into a quilt. "I didn’t think I would have enough shirts to make a quilt," he says.
"It’s almost like a memory quilt."
When Leslie Berry came to Memphis, she didn’t have any family or friends nearby, so
she made sure to bring along things that would remind her of home if she ever got
"I love music, and it’s always been a way for me to express myself, whether I listen
to a song that matches my mood or if I play my saxophone," says Berry, a junior civil
engineering major from Clinton, Md. "The area where I’m from has its own genre of
music called Gogo, and when I get homesick I always listen to it in order to make
me feel better. Listening to Gogo in combination with looking at the many photo albums
and framed pictures I have of my family and friends is what gets me through a rough
day when talking on the phone just isn’t enough. I now call Memphis my second home,
but it’s still nice to have those things that remind me of my true home in Maryland."
No matter how many miles — or oceans — away home is, a few precious mementos scattered
around ensure that even in a dorm room or apartment, there’s no place like home.