The Experience of Home

So those of you who know me well would know that as of now, I’m somewhere in North Carolina, USA. To be a little more precise, I’m in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I’ve been here since the 12th of May 2013, and I’m here for another two weeks or so until the 27th of July, when I fly off to San Francisco for a week’s break after my exams.

So what am I here for? I’m here for a summer lab exchange programme between NUS and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), where I spend 12 weeks in a lab of my choosing here, and take a class each in their Summer Sessions I & II. Well, I ended up taking 2 classes on top of my research in Summer II, but that’s another story that involves paperwork, bureaucracy and a lot of running around. And an awesome professor who agreed to take me individually for a independent reading class, but that’s not for today.

Instead, I sit here in Caribou Coffee off Franklin Street writing when I should really be studying for my BIOL 450 test on anatomical neurobiology, which is Monday and I’m horribly doomed for it. There’s something more important I want to pen down first though, and that’s about my conception and feelings about Home.

The past two months in Chapel Hill have been great. I’ve had an awesome reception by the Study Abroad Office at UNC, stumbled into good Christian fellowship with the Every Nation folks, live in a dorm (Lewis) with friendly people I can click with on my floor, joined the UNC fencing club where I’ve had great coaching and substantial improvement in my game. My lab experience has been interesting, I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve had excellent professors and TAs in my classes (BIOL 201, BIOL 450 and LING 296). Nothing to complain about, certainly.

And yeah, I’ve done what the usual exchange student does: buy host university merchandise, which at UNC is quite a challenge to find something you don’t like (the Daniels Student Stores has UNC logos on everything you need from birth to death, quite possibly including Tar Heel coffins). I have a UNC pin on my cap and my nice Columbia allweather jacket that I’ll be wearing for the next few years at least when I walk around in bad weather or good weather will have Carolina Blue stitching and UNC logos. Sounds good, you say.

Yet today, I remembered what Home was to me, and meant to me. I’ve been missing Singapore like crazy, much as I love the place here. Even as I await our 48th year of independence on the 9th of August and look forward to National Day back home, I know it will be hard to leave when my last two weeks are up. (I stopped writing at this point because the Every Nation folks I had been waiting for arrived and we went off to get Yopo, but coming back to it, yes, it’s going to be hard to leave without planning to come back.)

Today I stood at the Daniels Student Stores and saw a shirt that was nice. It had a picture of the North Carolina state map on it and it was in my favourite blend of American Apparel material. But well, it had the words “HOME” on it, and as I stood there contemplating buying it, it struck me that I only have two homes where that might be appropriate. As much as Chapel Hill will hold a beloved place in my heart, the physical place I call home will still be a small, sweaty tropical island in South-East Asia, and the eternal home I yearn for not defined by a physical location, but the sweet presence of my heavenly Father.

A special place in my heart, but not my home.
Chapel Hill, NC: A special place in my heart, but not home.

I may have walked out of the Student Stores emptyhanded, but I was reminded again of what Home was to me, and I am glad for that.

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