Well, it’s official. I spent five months traveling around the world and two months in Texas, but at long last, I have returned my beloved University of Illinois. This will be my most permanent address for the first time in almost two years. I’m no longer a nomad without a home.

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This will be my first time living in an apartment instead of the dorms.

So what’s it like to be back?

I’m sad I can’t just jet off to magical places like Paris or London anymore, but Urbana-Champaign really has become a home to me and I’m happy to be here. Even though my apartment has bed bugs and I already have a ton of homework, I’m glad to be here at Illinois. This is where so many people I care about live and it’s good to be back.

Recently, I watched a TED Talk on the meaning of home and where a person comes from. I admit that I cried the first time I saw it because Pico Iyer understood how I’ve felt over the past 19+ months as I’ve lived in Illinois, Alabama, Ohio, Wales and Texas. It was always difficult to move somewhere new and create a new community, but it gave me the opportunity to make the amazing friendships throughout the US and the world. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Wherever I go, even when I was traveling in Europe, people wanted to know exactly where I was from in the United States. I am no longer from one part of the United States. When my mother visited me in Wales, someone asked where we were from. My mother answered, “Ohio!” immediately at the exact same time I said, “Ohio and Illinois.” Even though my answer made sense (I live in Illinois more than Ohio, even if I can’t claim in-state tuition), my mother was still surprised by my answer. I’m still trying to define where I’m from.

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Last winter, I visited and stayed with a couple different friends in Chicago and northern Illinois before leaving for Wales.

To me, home is not a place, but a state of being. It is defined by people. After thinking about this idea over plane and train rides, I have decided my home is not where I lay my head down at night, but where I know I could lay down my head. It’s about people and community, as Pico said. I have homes across the US from California to Minnesota to Massachusetts to Georgia because there are people there who care about me and would be happy to make their home my home too.

Despite the trials, I’m happy to be back at Illinois because I’ve returned to a community that will help me get over the hard times and focus on celebrating the joys of life and college.

This is my last study abroad post now that I have returned and re-acclimated myself to American college life. I have not yet written a autoethnography on study abroad due to time constraints this summer, but I hope start work on it soon and hope to finish it this winter.

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