Freshmen Jakob Lazzaro and Debbie-Marie Brown explore the different places first-year college students call home. (Transcript below).
On my way home – Debbie-Marie Brown
Jakob Lazzaro: Hey everyone, I’m Jakob Lazzaro.
Debbie-Marie Brown: And I’m Debbie-Marie Brown.
Jakob: Debbie, can you tell me about your two ID’s again?
Debbie: Okay, so I have one Connecticut driver’s license and an Illinois state ID that isn't a driver’s license, which has my dorm address on it.
Jakob: And you obviously won’t be living there next year.
Debbie: Exactly. But I’m still here for nine months a year, and I only got the Illinois one because I lost my Connecticut ID.
Jakob: This address confusion is a dilemma a lot of college students, especially freshmen, face.
Debbie: Although most don’t end up having two IDs.
Jakob: Right, yeah. But balancing two homes is one of the unique things about being in college.
Debbie: We’re all going through this experience in tons of different ways, but for freshmen it can be especially taxing.
Jakob: We spoke to four Northwestern freshmen about their experiences balancing two addresses and two homes.
Jake Curtis: I’m Jake Curtis from London, England and I’m a freshman communication studies major.
Debbie: So where does Jake consider home?
Jake: I have a fairly big family. I have an older sister and two younger brothers. They’re all kind of the greatest. My older sister’s a genius, has pink hair and lives in New York. My parents are the best people I know. Dad is sort of morally incredible. Mom is less morally incredible but kind of gets what she wants, which is also very respectable, and the two younger brothers are pretty standard.
Jakob: Before coming to Northwestern, Jake lived in New York for some time with his family. He says the transition from Britain to America was harder than he expected.
Jake: There is that belief that the sort of western English speaking world is going to be the same, that England, Australia, the United States is all similar and I was kind of expecting this. And then coming here I found that the biggest change wasn’t necessarily in activities or day-to-day living, but there is a definite change in kind of the ideals and beliefs of the people. I find everything is slightly off and everything is slightly foreign, even the cashier people in shops I find different. There's just a general different tone in the people. I spent a lot of my childhood in a little village on the east coast of England, and Evanston reminds me much more of that then living in London or living in New York. It feels so sort of small and parochial almost, this lovely community feeling, this lovely sense that everyone is bound by some common thread, and I love that.
Debbie: So where does Jake consider home?
Jake: It’s complicated, for me home is my family. I love where I grew up, I love where I live, I like the shops there, I’ve got my favorite restaurant, but I don’t feel as much of an emotional tie to it as i do to the people that were there, and those people no longer are there. My sister who I’m very close with now lives in New York, my best friend lives in Brighton. Everyone’s sort of scattered. I find going home the most difficult thing because I go home and I find it doesn’t exist anymore. So for me, it very much feels like my family is my home.
Jakob: On the flip side, there’s Bailee Rue, who is in SESP. She lives in 1838 Chicago, and is one of 19 Northwestern freshmen from Evanston.
Jakob: How many minutes are you from your house?
Bailee Rue: I’m like five minutes away.
Debbie: Five minutes? That’s pretty close.
Bailee: Yeah, I’m very close. It’s nice that I can like meet people from all over the country and hear about them and their experiences coming to Evanston, because I want to see how they like Evanston. We’re really “Evanston.” My mom is running for alderman, she’s super “Evanston.” It’s nice to see my friend’s perspective of it because this is home to me, and I’m also jealous when they can go home somewhere else over break and I’m just stuck here.
Debbie: Do you feel like you are in Evanston when you’re here?
Bailee: I don’t, when I’m on campus I feel like I’m in a different city. If I stay on campus I feel like I’m not five minutes from home. But as soon as I cross like Ridge then it’s like, “Ugh, this is where I’ve been all my life.”
Jakob: Would you even want to even move off campus? I know a lot of people want to move off campus to regain some sense of, “This is my house, don’t wanna share a shower with thirty people” or et cetera.
Bailee: That’s a good question. I don’t think I’d mind going back home. I would want to live off campus also, but I wouldn’t mind going back home and being with my dog all the time.
Jakob: Many Northwestern students come from more urban environments. Emily Reich, who lives in Shepard, does not.
Emily Reich: I’m from Huntsville, Arkansas.
Jakob: And how many people do you think live there?
Emily: Probably 2,000.
Emily: Yeah. So, I have two older sisters, one’s five years older than me and the other is seven years older than me. I’m very close with my, Shelby’s my middle sister and Ashley’s my older sister. I’m very close with Shelby, pretty close with my oldest, not as much, she’d always try to be the mother for me. My dad I’m somewhat close to, the last year I was living there I was working a lot and so I wasn’t really seeing him a whole lot, we were kind of just like roommates. Really, really close with my older sister, though. She’s getting married this year and I’m her maid of honor and everything like that.
Debbie: So how’s Emily adjusting to life in Evanston?
Emily: It’s really nice and refreshing to me because I wasn’t a big fan of the small town. Everybody knew everybody, and when people say that you don’t really think it’s true but it really is true, like I knew everybody’s name. Of the 2,00 people you know everybody, you know their stories: or at least you know what people say about them, and so a lot of people heard things about me that were not true, so I was like “I don’t like this.” A lot of people there have the same mindset, like you finish high school, you get married, you have kids. There was about 10 percent of my graduating class that had families and had children already. That was just the norm there. Everyone in Arkansas, not everybody, well the majority of the people there, are republicans: my father being one of them, actually. He would’ve voted for trump. So when I left, everyone here was obviously liberal. I got to learn a little bit more, because they didn’t really talk about it back where I was from other than being like, “Yeah, I’m a republican.” That’s it. End of conversation.
Debbie: Does Northwestern feel like home?
Jakob: Yeah, does Northwestern feel like home to you?
Emily: It does, actually. A lot of my friends are living on my same floor, that’s how we became so close. In Arkansas, I didn’t really have a big group of friends, but here I do, and they keep me not just doing schoolwork or working all the time. I have more time to hang out with them because they make me remember that I have them to lean on. So I mean it feels really nice.
Debbie: Finally, there’s Ying Dai. She’s in Medill and came to Northwestern from China, via Swaziland, in southern Africa.
Ying Dai: I’m the only child in my family. My mom gave birth to me very young, when she was 22 I think, relatively young. We are really dependent on each other, we are very supportive of each other. And like all the children who are under the influence of the one child policy, we’re sort of learning to adjust and sort of find siblingship from friends and maintain at the same time this close family structure.
Jakob: So how did Ying manage her two big transitions?
Ying: I think the biggest transition for me from China to Swaziland was more of challenging who I was challenging my existing beliefs and perceptions of the world because I lived together with people of 80 different nationalities. And you learned to think before you ask questions, to get to know a person first before you make judgements and then to challenge everything you’ve heard. From Swaziland to the states: I think what I found most difficult was how individualistic everyone is. How everyone was doing their own thing, you’re out to be independent. You’re taught to take care of yourself first, which is kind of different from how I was raised and the whole idea of community and the whole idea of, “you need to live in a collective family.” And also how segregated the United States is. You’re segregated by culture, you’re segregated by race and there’s a lot of labeling that I was not used to.
Jakob: Ying started school in in Swaziland when she was 17. Because of that, she’s now 21, a lot older than most freshmen.
Ying: It gives me a lot of pressure that I want myself to do better cause you’re older, but then you also have more adjustment to do culturally, language-wise and even humor wise. People don’t get your jokes and you don’t get other people’s jokes. You don’t understand slang. You don’t understand pop culture references, and they're all very difficult but at the same time no, you need to rush because you’re old. The place I feel most at home will always be where my parents are. So right now it still should be China. But then also, at the same time I feel like this multicultural homelessness, where you have a lot of habitats but you don’t actually find you’re rooted anywhere.
Jakob: For these freshmen, balancing two homes is mostly about people: friends and family, wherever they may be. However, people aren’t always everything. For Jake, there’s also food.
Jake: Oh, the food.
Jakob: Just the food?
Jake: It’s the food. I found out very recently that there’s sort of a very false idea in America that English people have bad food.
Jakob: Yeah, I was about to say that.
Jake: Have you heard this?
Jake: It is a lie! It is a bold lie! We have the best food in the world. Maybe bar the Italians, they’re doing pretty well, but wow we’ve got good food in England. It’s incredible, there’s so much, the cold meats – you guys don’t have many, like you don’t have pork pies, or scotch eggs, or sausage rolls, none of them! I miss the food a lot. Biscuits, is the large thing – English biscuits, very different to American biscuits. American biscuits are fine. But English biscuits, I have a tattoo of biscuits on my foot.
Jakob: You do?
Debbie: Oh my god.
Jake: Do you want to see it?
Jakob: Yeah, sure!
Debbie: Go ahead.
Jake: I love biscuits more than anything, and you guys don’t have them at all here.
Jakob: Oh my god.
Jakob: How long have you had that tattoo?
Jake: About six months now? England and America did very similar things culinary. We colonized the world and took all of the best food back to England, and you did the same because we made you. But the thing is, you guys took your food and you Americanized it. You bastardized it to a sense. You changed it. In England it didn’t change, it just sort of stayed traditional. What I love in England is the massive variety of food. Almost all the food I have here tastes slightly the same. It’s the same flavors, it’s the same ingredients, it’s kind of different combinations of the same thing. In England there’s so much diversity that’s remained in the food and I miss that a lot, the kind of difference of it all. And just biscuits again, wow. There's jammy dodgers, there’s hobnobs, there’s digestives, wow.
Debbie: The music in this episode was written and performed by me, Debbie-Marie Brown.
Jakob: I’m Jakob Lazzaro
Debbie: And this is Ask NBN.
On my way home – Debbie-Marie Brown
Editor's note: Ying Dai has contributed to North by Northwestern.