OPINION: Cold city or cold home: When does an obligation to go home during break finally end?

As DePaul students, the first thing we learn in college is how to navigate a big city on our own. We very quickly gain this sense of independence that we may have not had previously. This newfound independence can jumpstart the need to create your own life separate from the one you grew up in.

A large portion of the DePaul student body starts to live off-campus right after freshman year. The thought of moving out and into your own place has been implanted in our brains the second we got here.

So when do we stop going home for every break and start creating our own lives? Is it when we want to stop obliging by our parents’ rules? Is it when we no longer feel safe enough to return home due to contrasting family politics? Or is it when we finally stop feeling guilty for wanting a different life than the one we grew up in?

For many students, the issue can be a toxic home environment. We commonly hear about this from queer students whose families are not supportive of their sexuality and/or gender identity.

A queer trans sophomore at DePaul, who requested anonymity, used to have a close bond with their big family, however, the becoming of who this student truly is has caused a ripple in those relationships.

The thought of not going back home has been in these students’ minds since they waltzed into their freshman dorm last year. A home filled with gossip about your personal identity is never mentally healthy for anyone. Sometimes we need to be reminded that it is okay to move away from that environment.

Big families, like my own, are bound to have a plethora of political opinions. It is understandable for people to want some time away during the holiday season when, for some reason, all anyone can talk about is politics.

Sophomore Sara Sampson, ventured to DePaul to escape the small conservative town in Ohio she grew up in. Sampson, who did not align with her town’s politics, went back for breaks throughout her freshman year, but the second she signed a lease for her own off-campus apartment, she knew those home visits were going to be limited. How do you step away from a secure life with your family at such a young age?

“There’s guilt about ignoring the life I had,” Sampson said. “But I chose DePaul because it wasn’t so far that I couldn’t make it back in less than a day, yet it was far enough to make my own life.”

A common worry is how to fill up your days during break when DePaul goes offline if you are not home with family. Sampson filled up her time by working and thrifting. 

Another DePaul student, James Valentín, has found a good balance between living on his own in the city and occasionally visiting family in the suburbs. Valentín started staying in the city for breaks during his freshman year due to work. He spent his fall quarter finding people who would be around during his time off to keep him busy.

“If you use your time wisely you always find people who are around,” Valentín said. “I guess the hardest thing is balancing a grocery budget.”

These students have all created opportunities for themselves to explore a more independent life from their families, while still maintaining a relationship with them if they choose to. They are doing what they can to make the life they dreamt up in their head into a reality.

This city can be very intimidating. Change is scary and so is getting older, but how are we supposed to grow if everything always stays the same?

The second you start thinking about wanting to stay in the city can be the second you do. We are in a big city with big opportunities. It’s okay to have your own life and create a new family in the place you spend your year at. Going home is never a requirement.