5 Ways To Make Going Home Kick-Ass

Returning home during college is like re-visiting your favorite Chuck E. Cheese: nostalgic, exhilarating, and filled with a repressed fear of Chinese finger traps. fingertrapAhh.. Bondage. Just like home.

             Yet, unlike Chuck E. Cheese, going home is not seen as an adventure. Rather, it is a time of needed relaxation: a brief period to see old friends, catch-up, and reminisce on our past lives. Home is a place of perfect comfort.

Which should make us all a bit uncomfortable.

A recent study by Robin Dunbar of Oxford showed that the more years you spend away from friends the smaller and weaker your social network is back at home. Furthermore, the longer we spend away from friends, the more our future interactions focus on the past.

This isn’t necessarily bad: recent research has shown that nostalgia is beneficial for our long-term happiness. But, it’s not always sustainable. If each break is simply a dose of high school nostalgia, we’ll create a drug with decreasing effectiveness.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. What if we saw our breaks at home as a time not to “catch-up”, but to "move ahead"? Instead of living in the past, we take advantage of the weeks we have to form a new narrative in our friendships.

Home deserves to be an adventure. Here are five ways how.


Five Ways To Make Going Home Kick-ass


1. Create one ridiculous project with a friend 

To be clear, nostalgia is good for you. Research from the university of South Hampton shows that nostalgia helps individuals “feel happier, have higher self-esteem, (and) feel closer to loved ones”. However, this research comes with a caveat. In order for nostalgia to be effective, we need to constantly create new memories.

One great way to do this is to have one ridiculous project over each break. This can range from filming a video, to throwing a Gatsby-era party at your local Burger King. Great friends have pushed me to do this. So, over the past year and a half I’ve recorded a music video with my best friend, performed spoken word with my cousin, and attempted to change Missouri’s state vegetable to the turnip.

Before you arrive back home, talk with one of your best friends and think of a project you want to tackle together. Make it your number one goal for the trip, do it, and add another great memory to the friendship.


2. Reach out to one new person

A number of studies show that there is a positive correlation between the size of your social network and your overall happiness. This is great news when going to college (you meet new people, form new networks, etc.), but it means that being home can be increasingly isolating. One way to counteract this is to reach out to one new person each time you go back.

Now, a “new” person doesn’t necessarily need to be a stranger. The beauty of college is that it eliminates most social hierarchy. My recommendation: ask that “to-cool-for-you" high school crush to a sophisticated coffee date. Odds are, his/her impending social isolation will force her to agree.

The other option is to tap into a new network you are a part of. Reach out to alumni of your school, those working in a field you’re interested in, or those who are in a similar club that you are at school. (*note to self, “Sailing Club” is a sad, sad thing in mid-Missouri)

Adventures are as much about people as they are about the journey. Make new people a part of every adventure back home: reach out to one new person each time.


3. Make a plan in advance

The key to making home an adventure is to actively shape your time. To be clear, just hanging out at home is not a bad thing. However, if you want to make going home an adventure, you have to be proactive with what you do.

A good rule of thumb is to write down your goals for the break one or two weeks in advance. Writing down your goals helps structure your thoughts and makes them more likely to be achieved. Even more important, however, it gives you time to plan for the events you want to attend or throw. Whether you need to purchase a ticket or invite friends to explore an abandoned house, taking 10-15 minutes in advance allows you to make much larger scale plans. The more exciting a project is the more time it will take beforehand. Give yourself that time: plan in advance your goals/schedule for the weeks back.


4. Invite a mentor for tea

Meet up with a professor, coach, or friend who changed your life. These people deeply care about you and hearing about you succeed makes them happy. Undoubtedly, you also care about them and are grateful for everything they’ve done. Invite them for coffee, find them at your old school, or take them to a wild hummus-filled date.

This is not an adventure in the traditional sense. However, by showing gratitude you not only make them feel better, you contribute to your own long-term happiness. An adventure is simply a way to create memories. Make one memory that is filled with thanks - it will make you happier long-term, and will brighten the day of others


5. Be a mentor

Do you remember how far away college felt for a high schooler? How much you looked up to the seniors of your high school? There are many students who look up to you, what you’ve done, and who you are— the organizations you led in high school are now run by the kids you knew as seniors and juniors. Reach out to the organizations, plan a dinner/party for the group, or simply ask if anyone would like to meet up to talk about college. Make going home about others and it will be much more fun than making it about yourself. (Also, being the old benefactor of a high school club is surprisingly exciting)


Seeing friends and family is fun no matter what. But, if we only live in the past, we are doing a disservice to them as well as ourselves. By making each trip an adventure, we recognize that home is an active and growing part of our life – not something that exists purely in our past.


Let’s make going home an adventure. Let’s make going home kick-ass.