The importance of place – going back home


January 14, 2024

I’ve mentioned it a lot on this blog so you most definitely live under a rock if you didn’t know this already, but incase you don’t recall, my senior year of high school and my freshmen year of college were in the midst of Covid. I spent my entire freshmen year of Georgetown, not actually at Georgetown, but on the other side of the world at home in Dubai. I recently went home to Dubai for winter break and it was a weird experience to be back in those exact places where I spent all the key moments of my freshmen year of college that now seem so long ago and so far away. Those core memories that you have as a freshmen like your first ever class, meeting your friends, and the epic highs and lows when grades are released were all experienced at my desk in my childhood bedroom, through Zoom calls, and at random spots around our family home. Actually, I take that last one back – because of the 9 hour time difference I would actually always wake up in the morning to my assignments being graded while I was asleep, so I experienced that core memory from my bed.

Instead of all my core memories of my first year of college being dotted around DC, they’re all set in Dubai and honestly they’re mostly set in the house we lived in at the time because I barely left the house that year. I basically became nocturnal so that I would be awake during a good chunk of American hours for school and I wasn’t meeting up with anyone in person so I consciously had to make an effort to get out of the house at least once a day. Going back to Dubai this break and specifically going back to our old neighbourhood and all my old haunts (which literally just meant the trail that I would drag myself out on a walk on everyday and the one grocery store that I would call an outing) felt so nostalgic; it basically felt like I was living my entire freshmen year over again. There is this one coffee shop in Dubai that I used to go to towards the end of my first semester everyday (I think by that point I had switched the daily walks for a daily trip to get matcha) and I would sit there for hours and work on my calculus homework. By the end of that semester I would only have to walk into that coffee shop for the baristas to start making a matcha – classic Yasmin. But all of this to say that I had very distinct memories from that year across Dubai and being back in those places felt like I was being transported back to that time. 

I think that we don’t often given enough recognition to how much the place or the setting plays into our memories. By this, I don’t just mean the city or country that we are in, but I mean the small things about our surroundings that become a core part of the memories there. I feel like everyone has had the experience of smelling a specific scent that brings you back to a moment in time; well, I think that this is sort of the same thing. For me, just physically being in that same unchanged place brings me back to that exact moment and elicits the same emotions. 

An example that I’ve been reflecting on a lot recently as a senior thinking about my future career is the memories I had in my freshmen year as I went through my career discovery journey. I remember sitting in my bedroom back in Dubai in my freshmen year of college looking through the list of student organizations that I wanted to join and thinking, “oh maybe I should join a pre-professional club.” I remember picking out this one club and going to the information session one night after eating dinner at home and being filled with excitement; I vividly remember running downstairs and telling my parents how cool this club was and how I so badly wanted to be a part of it. To me, being in that exact spot in our house would bring back those same emotions for me. 

I should pause the story here now and just give a preface to say that Georgetown is like no other school with its clubs; at Georgetown you can think of pre-professional clubs sort of like greek life (very selective to get into but also a great community once you’re in). Maybe that’s our version of greek life because we’re all nerds? You have to go through extensive applications and interviews to get into a banking club or a consulting club or a finance club, but that’s very normal here.

Anyway, back to the story! I remember writing my application to get into that club while sitting in my bed and working through my resume. I remember sitting down at my desk and wearing my favorite green jumper and doing the interview for that club (with my two interviewers who actually became really good friends later down the line) and going to sleep so anxious to hear about if I got in or not. The next morning I remember waking up to a message saying that I got in and going downstairs and telling my dad. Through that club I got introduced to the career that I’ll be pursuing after college and I actually remember daydreaming in our kitchen at home about one day working at one of those companies that all the cool seniors in the club were going off to, which is now what I’m going to do after graduation! All of that to say that it was weird going back home as a senior, knowing what my career is going to look like for the next couple of years (and being so extremely excited about it) but being in those places where I went through all of those key moments of discovery and anticipation as I figured it all out. It felt like an oddly full circle moment, having those memories flood back from all those years ago, knowing what I do now.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s something so special about the place where we have our experiences. Being physically in a specific place brings emotions and different memories flooding back. As a senior in college, I don’t think that I fully appreciated this until now. Maybe I’m in a unique position because my home and my college are on completely different sides of the world so I guess they’re as distinct as you can get. However, I think that for anyone, we can go back to a physical place and be taken back to a specific moment in time. Going home during college for the last time, I think I realized that there’s something so beautiful about the process of going off to this completely different place for four (or just three in my case) years of your life and building completely new memories out there. You have all of these foundational experiences on your college campus, and I’m sure any alum could say that stepping foot on their college campus again really brings them back to those memories no matter how many years have passed. Going home for the last time while at school showed me how I can be in those places and be transported right back to who I was as a little freshmen. I guess I’m excited to see how it will feel coming back as an alum to Georgetown in a few years!

Those are a jumble of the thoughts in my head right now that I’ve been pondering over Winter Break, but I hope they at least make some sense to you! 

See you next week,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *