As my mother glazes her signature braised pork belly with a final sprinkle of rice wine, she brings the just-steaming dish to the dining table.
“Dinner is ready,” she said in Mandarin, asking us to come downstairs to eat. The aroma permeates through the cracks of the house and up to my bedroom.
I grew up in the traditions of a Chinese family. Weekend Chinese School, Lunar New Year, and my mother’s cooking were the defining moments of my childhood memories.
Whether it’s Mom’s Turkish Delights, Dad’s Vintage Humor, Pop’s American BBQ, or your family’s iconic celebrations, we all have defining characteristics and memories of what we used to call home. to arrive on the Forty Acres.
Now our home is defined by new traditions: the burnt orange, the Hook ’em hand signs and our mascot, Bevo.
College is a big adjustment. As the months pass, we often remember what we used to call home. As such, homesickness exists – even though it is an identity battle, it can be a catalyst for personal growth and a source of newfound independence.
My message to the freshman class: embrace homesickness.
Homesickness is a reminder of those you were closest to. You can have days when you absolutely thrive, days when you sleepless nights at Perry-Castañeda Library or days when you have trouble keeping up with class. There are sweet flower buds, moments that keep you grounded, and friends that become your new family. As you find your new family, the memories we create become the core of our college experience.
Homesickness is a reminder of growth. UT has an essence of beauty. Students come from all over the world – in-state, out-of-state, or international. The diversity of languages, traditions and student organizations allows students to find their place. Finding your passions and refining your interests is the key to personal growth, both academically and emotionally.
Homesickness is a reminder of tradition. The food that characterized your childhood, the songs you sang, the cultures you celebrated, don’t lose them. Learn the recipe passed down from your grandmother, celebrate your traditions with loved ones, keep your native tongue sharp and never forget the roots that define your identity.
Homesickness is a reminder of peace. Be free. It’s luck and the most ideal place to make mistakes, but remember to always bounce back. Get out of your dorms and breathe in the fresh air. Listen to the birds chirping as you lay beside the turtle pond. Learn to get out of your comfort zone. Keep yourself busy, but busy with intention.
Homesickness is a care reminder. There is a simple doctrine: apart from a person’s work, the most sacred thing he can give is his love. Somehow along the way, we tend to forget about it. Embrace whoever you have, your friends, teachers, roommates and those who stayed home. Self-care is important, even when you’re mired in work. Make sure you follow routines, eat well, and get enough sleep.
Homesickness is a reminder of home. Stay in touch with your family – text them, FaceTime, reconnect with your siblings and check on your grandparents. It reminds you of the core values you hold, yesterday and today.
Your parents and guardians are proud of you.
I’m proud of you.
As we begin a new roller coaster of chapters, the discomfort is impermanent. College is an opportunity. With the chaos, don’t forget the house. And call your mom, she’ll appreciate it.
You are here for a reason. Stick to your defined goal. You are part of a loving new family here at UT – a home away from home.
Wan is an aerospace engineer and freshman Plan II student from Houston, Texas.