Maya Angelou said,
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
One of the most daunting factors of going away to college is leaving home. It’s hard trading in your warm, cozy bed and Mom’s cooking for a hard, small dorm bed and lukewarm bowl of Easy Mac for dinner every night. Even harder is leaving behind the comforting arms of your family. I think every college student, young and old, near or far, gets homesick at some point.
Growing up in a parish where my dad was the priest, my church was a place where I felt very much at home. I had my little old lady buddies, taught church school, and sang in the choir, plus the extra perks that come with the title PK. Starting school and having to go to a new church was very different for me, and I have to admit, I was a little apprehensive. I worried about attending a church where not only the priest, but everyone, was a stranger to me. My biggest concern was attending a church and experiencing something contrary to what I was used to.
But, one Sunday morning, full of anticipation, I braved to step foot into my new church. As I inhaled deeply and my lungs filled with the familiar scents of beeswax and incense, I instantly felt at peace. Here I was, living on my own for the first time in a completely foreign place without a single familiar face, trying to figure out this whole college thing: nervous, lonely, and confused. All my anxiety and unease vanished. That unique church smell wrapped itself around me like a security blanket. The priest chanted the prayers I’ve heard my whole life and I timidly joined in with the hymns I knew by heart. In a sea of unfamiliarity, church was the raft I clung to. I started looking forward to my weekends, not for the same reason as my peers, but for that hour and a half I spent on Sunday mornings in church. It was my own personal island, where I could escape from the rest of the world. When I was at church, I felt at home.
Even now, in my second year of school, in which I am much more comfortable, I still look forward to Sunday mornings. Like my family, the church has always been there for me. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by school, clubs, and work, all I want is to go home and get a hug from my mom. But when I go to church, all that stress melts away. Stepping outside the college environment into one that is homey, comforting, and brimming with love is just as good as a hug from Mom. Even during the week, when there’s no actual service to go to, putting in my headphones and listening to the familiar Orthodox hymns while I study (you can find a surprising amount on Spotify), or going to OCF meetings and serving small Compline or Vespers surround by my friends, even just sitting silently in the church, has the same comforting effect.
To go back to what Maya Angelou said, there is a longing for home in everyone. Home is where nothing can hurt us, where we are loved. There’s a special feeling you get at home that can’t be replicated. The church gives us the same unconditional love and acceptance that we so crave when away from home. Whether we are lonely, drowning in schoolwork, or feeling a little lost, the Church is always there to hear our prayers and welcome us home.
About the Author
This is a guest post from Emma Solak. Emma is a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh studying nonfiction writing. She’s originally from Stroudsburge, PA where her dad is the priest tat the OCA church, Holy Trinity.