One of my strongest memories was back in the fall of 1986, when my parents dropped me off at the dorms at Mizzou. I was just a small-town naive girl that had grown up on a Missouri farm barely eighteen years old. It didn’t hit me until a few days later and I thought to myself, “I’m not in Kansas anymore!” Homesickness took over for at least one month as I poured myself into my classes, nights at the library, and trying to make connections with people. I was the only one from my high school making a choice to go away to school.
It was still the time of landline phones, no texting, no e-mail, no cellular phones to make home feel a little closer. My mom and I made a plan, a compact of sorts. Every Sunday evening, I would call her. I remember those first weeks away, I wanted to sound strong, confident…I didn’t want my parents to know I was doubting my big decision to move away to college. I had fought for this privilege since March; I had given up a new car promised by my father if I just went to a local college for two years, I had given up the security of my own bed, I given up the comforts of mom’s home-cooked meals and laundry duty, I had given up the confidence of having friends to hang out with, I had given up the feeling of safety of being home. “I’m doing great, Mom! Yes, I am eating, yes, I get along with my roommate, yes I like my classes!”, I replied each Sunday for at least five weeks. Then I hung up and cried in grandma’s quilt that covered my old twin bed in the dorm. I shed alot of tears over the first semester and I had to dig deep to overcome.
My roommate was a complete opposite personality than me. The only perk was she had a doctor for a father – he wrote her an excuse to install a window air conditioning unit. I kept telling myself it was a good thing she was my roommate. The fall of 1986 got pretty hot, but she was rarely in the dorm room. When I was there alone, I turned up the air and smiled. I tried to hit the library every night when being alone in the a.c. was too much. I poured myself into my studies. I did enjoy the big campus, the professors, the joy of being somewhere bigger than my hometown.
Eating in the cafeteria was always nerve-wracking for me. It was uncomfortable to sit alone at first, but slowly I found friends. It was especially hard because I was quiet and shy. I had to push myself to greet someone, ask to join someone, be outgoing…it slowly turned around. I started to get to know a girl from my dorm. I started to feel more confident.
The Sunday evening phone calls gradually started to go better. I gave my parents more details about me having fun, enjoying the experience, not just empty words about being fine. I did start to love being at Mizzou for so many reasons: I felt stronger and more confident with myself, I got jobs working at the Career Center and the cafeteria, I made a close friend and we became roommates at the semester (good-bye a.c. unit!)
The big thing I learned that first semester was how much home really meant to me. There was a purpose in going away to college, but as Dorothy showed us, “there is no place like home!” I received a taste of home in October when my parents came to Parent Weekend. My real joy arrived at Thanksgiving when I went back home for the first visit. It was magical, just like when Dorothy clicked those red sparking shoes three times. My lesson – sometimes you have to move away (physically and sometimes mentally) from something to really appreciate it. Thank you Mizzou and Dorothy for my big life lesson: “There’s No Place Like Home!”