For most, entering college means living away from home for the first time. While being away from family and friends is certainly challenging, the freshman experience truly challenges our understanding of “home.” For me, a home is more than a building that provides shelter to a group of people living together. A home gives me a sense of belonging. It is a place where I can be myself without any reservations. A home is rejuvenating; it is a center of learning, both physical and spiritual. It is a place where important life lessons are discussed, and it holds a sense of immunity; sentiments expressed in the home are protected. Most central to my idea of the home, however, is the richness of familial love.
Familial love is often best established through meaningful, consistent conversations. Thus, the sharing of a meal is the perfect opportunity for this to occur. Even with busy schedules in high school, my family always found time to share together over a meal. The dinner table was a place where we could share our daily events, talk about our upcoming goals, and pause to enjoy each other’s presence. Our meals always started with a prayer, making the sacredness of our time together tangible. More than just a space to gather and connect, the dinner table was a chance to grow. My parents loved to give my sister and me mental puzzles to solve or math problems to figure out. The dinnertime experience encompassed emotional, spiritual, and intellectual growth.
The growth that I experienced was always accompanied by the support of my family. I always had a space in which I felt comfortable to express myself and develop. The familiarity of my home provided me with a major source of stability. Coming to college, I was worried about orienting myself to a new space. My new striped comforter in my tiny bedroom in Thayer felt unfamiliar, as did all of the surrounding buildings. No longer could I share a meal in a cozy kitchen with my family. As these anxieties crept up on move-in day, my mom reminded me of a verse from Luke: “Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household’” (10:5). No longer did I think of my dorm as filled with boxes I needed to unpack, but rather I thought of how it was filled with grace from God. After a few days, I quickly grew to deeply appreciate the little space that was my room.
Beyond the space of my room, however, it was hard
to fully pinpoint an idea of a home space. In college, we
live where we work, so the separation between the two becomes less obvious. The stress of schoolwork can easily encompass the whole space of Harvard, which does not allow for the development of a home.
Faced with the task of building my idea of home, rather than just being born into it, I was drawn at the beginning of freshman year to Proverbs 24:27: “Complete your outdoor tasks, and arrange your work in the field; afterward you can build your house.” A home is something that develops, not something that we can immediately expect to exist. By interacting with the spaces in our surroundings, we begin to connect with these spaces and
with the people that we encounter in them. After some time, we begin to experience feelings of familiarity and comfort. This verse serves as a reminder that we must put in work to build a space that encompasses the idea of home — embodied by meaningful relationships and the willingness to share a space with others.
One space that has allowed me to foster meaningful relationships through the act of sharing it is Annenberg. I find something quite beautiful in the fact that, despite coming from such radically different backgrounds, all members of the freshman class eat the same food in the same place. A Catholic girl from a Philadelphia suburb who grew up eating pasta and chicken dishes can share a meal with a Jewish boy from Israel who grew up keeping kosher. Even if it starts with just the realization that both people enjoy the HUDS sweet potato salad, it is easy for that shared interest to morph into a better understanding and appreciation of the other person, and his or her unique interests and lifestyles.
During the first few weeks, it is a common experience to sit at a random table and meet all types of people. After finding a group, it is a place where everyone comes together to unwind after a long day. Taking friends from other schools into Annenberg usually prompts the question, “You eat here?” because people are shocked at the intricate, majestic design of the building. As we eat the catch of the day, we are surrounded by the second largest collection of secular stained glass in the world. This architecture transforms the space into part of the Harvard home, for it truly is so much more than just a building with some food and some tables. Additionally, throughout the year, the space is used for many social events, bringing the community together in other ways.
I was drawn at the beginning of freshman year to Proverbs 24: 27: “Complete your outdoor tasks, and arrange your work in the field; after that
you can build your house.” A home is something that develops, not something that we can immediately expect to exist. By interacting with the
spaces in our surroundings, we begin to connect with these spaces and with the people that we encounter in them.
Just as my parents occasionally hosted parties in our kitchen, the experience is similar at Harvard. Many people enjoy studying in Annenberg as well, for the community aspect that is experienced through always eating in the same place makes the idea of working through a hard chapter or a difficult problem set a bit less daunting. It is comforting that spaces at Harvard can serve more than one purpose.
Annenberg is a place of constancy that I visit three times per day (sometimes more, if I am particularly hungry). Because this place feels so much like home, it helps make Harvard as a whole feel like home. I know there is a place where I can share a meal and many sentiments with those I share my Harvard experience with. The idea of a home at Harvard, an intellectual center for learning, is summed up perfectly in Proverbs 24:3-4: “By wisdom a house is built, by understanding it is established; And by knowledge its rooms are filled with every precious and pleasing possession.”
Anne Marie Crinnion ’20 is a Psychology concentrator in Dunster House.