If you told me a year ago today that the thought of coming home from college would feel like a sharp pang in my chest, I would have laughed in your face. A year ago today I was surrounded by Facebook status detailing someone else’s commitment to graduate as the “Class of 2020″ at some other college.

A year ago today, I was surrounded by AP test prep and senior prom dress shopping. A year ago today I was having my mother fake a doctors note to excuse me for being late, yet again, to school because my brother refuses to get out of bed when his alarm rings. A year ago today I was surrounded by the bittersweet feeling that can only be representative of a huge chapter of your life racing to a close before you are ready to say goodbye.

Today, here I am, sitting in my dorm room, procrastinating writing a paper, and am once again surrounded by the same bittersweet feeling. When you arrive at college on the first day you don’t expect it to ever feel like home. The dorm room is unfamiliar and bland, and far too small. The new faces seem unfriendly, and are far too plentiful. The campus is confusing to navigate and classes are too hard. The girl who sleeps on the bed next to you is a stranger, and you miss your friends and family so much it physically hurts to think about them.

So you don’t think about them; at least not when you can help it. You make yourself busy with classes and homework and trying to find time to go out, and have fun, and figure out ways to disguise the disgusting dining hall food as edible, and before you know it it’s October. And the unfriendly faces become just a bit more friendly and your dorm room walls are covered with pictures of home and the girls on your floor are becoming your friends.

And then you blink and it’s December. You blink and suddenly the quad is covered in snow and your first semester classes are coming to an end and you figured out how to navigate the dining hall (also known as: don’t go and order-in instead). And you spend all night talking and laughing with the girls on your floor and the thought of going home for a month is sad, but welcomed, because you know after a few short weeks of tropical vacations and showers without flip-flops you will be reunited.

Then, break flies by and you’re back at school. You get adjusted to your new classes quicker than first semester and you get back in a groove. You finally learn how to wash your laundry (pro tip: the tide pod goes inside the washing machine, not where you would place detergent) and you sometimes forget to call your mom, but when you do catch her on the phone it doesn’t send pangs down your chest like it did in September: it makes you smile. And everything is still a bit of a frazzled mess, but in the good way--in the way that you can laugh about over dining hall soft-serve after classes have ended for the day.

Suddenly, it’s April. And you have only a month left in this place. A place that brings you so much stress it sometimes makes you want to drop out; but a place that brings you so much happiness you truly do not want to imagine your life without it. A place that crept up and stole a piece of your heart without you ever realizing it was happening. A place where your floor mates become your family, and the stranger who was sleeping next to you in September becomes your sister. And a place that, without hesitation, you can call a home.