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A Place to Call Home

Those who consider the nomadic way of life abandoned centuries in the past have not had the experience so frequently endured by the current generation of college students, recent graduates, and graduate school prospectives.  The months prior to the first day of the M1 curriculum are a unique period of stress and anticipation, but adding fury to this already volatile mixture of emotions is the packing, unpacking, and re-organizing of multiple college apartments and the bedroom-turned-storage-unit at your parents’ house.

After graduating from the University of Illinois in December 2011, I remained on campus with my three senior roommates to participate in our final semester together and to earn what I could before heading to Georgetown for medical school in the fall (turns out D.C. has a slightly higher cost of living than that of central Illinois).  Being the financially responsible graduate that I am, while my roommates headed back to the Chicago suburbs after being awarded their Bachelor’s degrees, I decided to remain on campus in order to continue working through the month of June.  While this may have been the appropriate choice, it caused me to split my time between working in Illinois, and spending the weekends enjoying my final summer vacation with friends in my hometown of Valparaiso, IN.  Each weekend, I would pack up another fraction of my college apartment and transport it to my mom’s house in Valparaiso.  As I watched the garage, living room, and my old bedroom slowly fill with furniture and clothing, my anxiety began to build as I realized the daunting task I faced in sorting and selecting the items that would claim a space in the basement studio apartment waiting for me in Washington D.C.

During the weeks I spent moving out of my college apartment, relocating my belongings to my childhood home, and preparing my next move to the East Coast, my mood swings were severe enough to be diagnosed as clinically bipolar.  Although I was in love with Georgetown and eager to experience a new city, the fear of leaving my family and friends, and with that my entire comfort zone, contrasted sharply with my excitement to leave the Midwest.  The endless piles of clothing and miscellaneous belongings scattered throughout my house were a constant reminder of the considerable transition I would be making in a few short weeks. I dreaded beginning the process of organizing and packing the items I would bring to D.C., and found myself hesitating when faced with the decision to leave behind objects that I knew full well would not be of use to me.

For me, and the thousands of other students in a similar position, my dilemma was not that I did not know how to pack – obviously I had successfully accomplished this in the past – but that completing this process was forcing me to come to terms that this house, and also my former college apartment, were no longer my home.  Was Washington D.C. my new home?  This unsettling feeling of “homelessness” drove me to near insanity (just ask my boyfriend, who bless his heart, helped me pack and move into my new D.C. apartment).  Now that my East Coast move is more or less complete, I am choosing to focus on the new network of family and support that I will develop as an M1 in an unfamiliar environment.  The stress we will face as medical students will surely surpass that caused by the minuscule task of moving across the country, but the feeling of being without a home will quickly disappear.

Katie Rodenbeck Katie Rodenbeck (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer Emeritus

Georgetown University School of Medicine

Katie Rodenbeck is a recent graduate from the School of Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. During her undergraduate career, she was an active member of the American Medical Student Association, a volunteer at Carle Foundation Hospital, and coordinator of the peer advising program in the School of Integrative Biology. Taking advantage of travel opportunities as an undergrad, Katie has visited countries including South Africa, France, and Turkey. As a participant in Global Medical Brigades, she has visited Honduras on two occasions, working with fellow students and volunteer physicians to set up free medical and dental clinics, serving those who otherwise have little to no access to health care. Her plans now include attending medical school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., where she is excited to become involved with health care justice and advocacy for the underserved population.