In the past three years, I’ve left the Lehigh Valley for study abroad trips to Germany, Madagascar, Morocco, and Kenya. Hands down, study abroad was one of my top priorities in college, and one reason why I chose Lafayette–I knew I was going to have the opportunities to travel.
And I have traveled, and grown immensely, and can honestly say some of my happiest moments have been when I found myself pushing with great energy well past where I thought my boundaries would be. My study abroad trips will be some of the highlights of my college career, just as I expected when I realized that staying close to home for college at Lafayette would ultimately allow me the opportunities to travel as far as I wanted.
And yet, as I’m thinking about starting my final year here, I can honestly say that I am thrilled by the prospect of living here, in Easton, right off campus, for the next year. I wish it were longer, in fact. I can’t wait for my friends to move in, and my classes to begin, and to spend another year here. Actually, I’ll admit I’m stressed about the fact that it’s one more year–I remember the end of my first year, and how excited I was to have three more years, and I feel a little anxious that much time has passed.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as summer winds down and my move-in date approaches. Perhaps it’s the result of all this traveling, but I am also suddenly finding myself quite in love with the Lehigh Valley. I’ve grown up in Bethlehem, an under-17-minute drive down 22 to Easton and Lafayette. Although I’ve always loved the small-town feel of Bethlehem and the metropolitan resources of the Lehigh Valley, this summer I’m feeling particularly fond of the area. I think that in addition to finally resting at home, part of it has to do with the start of Musikfest this past weekend in Bethlehem.
The largest non-gated, free music festival in the States, it’s right down the street from where I grew up, and again, only a couple minutes from Lafayette. Having grown up going each summer to Musikfest, I sometimes forget how incredible an event it is–free music on the streets and a great variety of food and drinks open to everyone.
So I can never say that I’ve traveled extensively—I know some sounds and smells and tastes and sights of each place I’ve been, a snapshot of a place and time. I know a little about the medina of Rabat, my home for a semester, and even less about Bonn, and far less about any other place I’ve stayed. But I feel like each time I come home, I find home a little more wonderful, and I know that my willingness and enthusiasm for pushing my own boundaries is because I have such a stable foundation and a home to which I will always love to return. And right now, about two weeks before I move into my senior year housing, that home also means Lafayette.
I’ll admit, too, that I’m feeling particularly nostalgic because my senior year is approaching, I’m spending the summer interviewing students who are just beginning their college search, and I’m constantly thinking about what I want to do after graduation. But it is nice to know that although I have always and will always love traveling, I will also always know where home is.