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Gaber ’23: Moving can be an emotional trauma

Since Brown’s student body comes from all 50 states and more than 100 countries, the vast majority of us have experienced the transitional phase of moving to a new place. Some of us come from distant time zones, while others live an hour drive away. No matter the distance, moving from one place to another is a critical inflection point in our lives that can unleash a wealth of complex emotions. Moving can be exciting, and the change of pace it provides can often be welcome, but it can also present challenges that we don’t talk about enough as a society. Moving, at any stage of life, can be emotionally traumatic and requires attention and patience. 

This change can cause what some refer to as Relocation Stress Syndrome, or a set of negative emotions as a result of moving between environments. Moving can be especially stressful if someone has been in a single environment for many years, or even their entire life. These bittersweet moments of transition are normal, but we should also recognize the difficulty in leaving behind familiar places and faces to plunge into the unknown. Patience should be extended to newly-arrived college students especially, as the transition to college is widely glamorized with little acknowledgment of the emotional difficulties that students face as they enter a brand new environment on their own.

Of course, for some of us, college is not the first time that we have moved away from home. I was born and raised in the Seattle area, but moved to Houston a few days after my 15th birthday. That transition was difficult, not just because of the culture shock of moving to such a different part of the country, but also because I left behind everything and everyone I had ever known and lacked the resources to understand the toll that this would take on me in day-to-day life. While my move was difficult, other moving patterns are just as uncomfortable and even more disruptive. Children of military personnel often face significant mental health challenges, including feelings of rootlessness, a result of moving frequently while young. Moving often as a child can also lead to what some call a Goldilocks complex, where adults who moved frequently as children continue to move regularly later in life, constantly searching for a better place to lay down roots. 

As a senior still considering my post-grad options, and as someone who has moved twice before, I am particularly mindful of the difficult period of transition that lies ahead. Although the excitement of charting a young adult life is certainly present for me and my peers, I am apprehensive about the transitions that await me. Adjusting to life post-grad may not always be the glamorous task that we imagine. In addition to the logistical difficulties of moving, it will take most of us a minute to catch our breath in a new environment and to find ways to engage with new places and communities. 

Nevertheless, we should not let these realities take away from the excitement and anticipation of our newly minted adult lives. In my experience, in order to make the most of a move, it is critical to be patient and to go easy on yourself. It can take a while to navigate new situations and find your place in a community where your presence is novel. For first-years (and sophomores and juniors, for that matter), you will find your people if you keep looking for them. Coming to college is hard, but time and community engagement will make all the difference. For seniors, rest assured that we will figure out our post-grad lives eventually. Not every step of the way will be the “roaring ’20s” that we’ve been promised, and that we might have hoped for. But with time, loved ones and a steady routine, we can find our way out of tough transitions into a fulfilling future.

Yasmeen Gaber ’23 can be reached at yasmeen_gaber@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.



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