Near the end of the school year, I found myself confused and even dreading going home. Don't get me wrong, home will always be home. It's comfortable. It's where I was raised. And it's where my family and all my high school friends are during breaks. But when I'm at college, I'm myself—but also a different version of myself that I just can't be when I'm back home.

College marked a new beginning.

A fresh start to allow myself to grow and explore. It's true in the first year of college, you have a lot of firsts, both positive and negative. But you grow and change from those experiences. And maybe it's because of those firsts that friends and people I know from back home keep repeating to me that "I've changed," or "I'm different from before." I can't help but be left confused about whether these comments should be taken as compliments or subtle criticisms.

I've come to not necessarily dislike going home, but I just can't help feeling like I was back at my college campus when I'm home. I've found another family here at college. You know how there are just certain things you can't share or talk about with your parents? Whether that's out of fear of judgement, disappointment, or just something you can never utter to your parents or friends from home about. I've found friends in college who I can talk everything about with because they've seen me go through those firsts and have even gone through those firsts too. There are things that they can relate to that I find people back at home just won't understand.

This other version of myself isn't not me. I'm still me, but just, I guess the best phrase for it would be, more free. Less guarded.

I've been separated from my high school friends for a year now. We've occasionally texted and ranted to each other about college, but as the year went by, the gap inevitably became wider and wider. Everyone has grown. And based on our environments we've grown differently and at different rates.

School is school. Midterms, finals, and papers rarely sound exciting, but I just can't help myself. I find myself laying in bed at night when I'm home just wishing to be back in my dorm room, sharing a small crowded room with my two roommates who have come to become some of my closest friends this past year. I miss the late night talks that last all the way till sunrise. Talking about our struggles, finding ourselves and what we want to do with our lives, our wishes, relationship and family troubles, and our mental health. I miss the random meetups at 2AM with my friends just to grab some food and listen to music.

It's like a whole nother world that I have come to recognize as my home away from home.