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Home Sweet Home

By: Callie Schaden |

In the past eight months I’ve slept in 12 different beds in 4 different countries, 3 different US states, 10 different cities, and 4 different time zones. I spent three of those months in Spain and three and a half of them in Indiana, the in-between time filled with summer vacations or quick trips around Europe. I’ve said, “I actually don’t live here, I live in Ohio” or, “Solamente estoy aquí tres meses” countless times this year. Two of those ten cities grew to feel a bit like a home, but only one of them is the home I grew up in, the one I always want to come back to.

After living in the same place for 21 years of my life, leaving for eight months was much harder than I expected it to be. I love the cornfields and the rolling hills and the dirt roads that characterize my hometown, but more than that I love the familiarity. Whenever I go grocery shopping, I see five different people I know, and I even recognize the strangers walking down the street. The lady who cuts my hair is the aunt of my brother’s good friend and when I go in for a trim she tells me, “Oh I just saw your Uncle Matthew yesterday. He’s been attached to that mullet since the 80’s.” The baristas at my favorite coffee shop have seen me in and out of that door since middle school, and they’ve served me the same two drinks since then too. I know the old black truck at the auto shop because no one else in town has the same one. Most people would recognize my last name. I don’t need maps to get anywhere.

Callie Schaden, “Away From Home”, 2022

In Spain, I was a stranger. To the streets, to the coffee shops, to the people at the grocery store. I knew how to get from my piso to school or the park or the center of the town or the nearest Mercadona, but I couldn’t tell you where they all were in relation to each other. I was a stranger to the culture and the language, too. There was some discomfort to me in this strangeness because I have always felt so at home in my town that I never imagined what it would feel like to exist outside of that quaint Ohio familiarity until I went to Valencia. But I found that this discomfort was necessary for my growth, in the Spanish language, in independence, even just as a person being stretched outside of her comfort zone. Valencia, eventually, became a new piece of home. I was the same person I’d always been in Ohio, but with a little more culture, a little more knowledge, and a new space in my heart for a place I never thought could feel familiar. An inkling of a feeling that maybe somewhere else could feel like home.

Only a week and a half after I got home from Spain, I moved to Indiana without the rest of my family. In a way, it was more foreign to me than Valencia because although it was so different from Ohio, it was also very much the same. Spain was a new country. It was supposed to feel different, even uncomfortable. Indiana was not supposed to feel that way because it’s right next to Ohio. It has the same cornfields, the same time zone, nearly the same culture. I didn’t expect it to feel so far away. But they weren’t my cornfields and believe it or not, the culture is different in Ohio than it is West of Indy. There were no familiar faces, no coffee shops that contained years’ worth of memories, and no one who knew my last name. I was a stranger again.

Callie Schaden, “No Place Like Home”, 2022

This weekend, I packed up all of my things and made the six-hour trek back to Ohio. I’m thankful I got to experience new things as a stranger. And that I got to watch new pieces of myself be formed through experiences far outside of my bounds of comfort. I have a greater appreciation for other places now, but I have a greater appreciation for my home too. Although I loved every second of my life in Spain, I still caught myself lying awake at night, imagining what was happening at home. It was eight months of learning contentment for me, whether I was an ocean away or just a state border. If I could go back to Valencia, I would. And I’m sure I’ll find myself in Indiana again. But nothing feels like turning onto Clay Street after eight months of sleeping everywhere but my own bed. I want to keep learning, growing, and expanding my horizons, but I’m thankful that there truly isn’t any place like home.

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Callie Schaden is currently an English and Spanish student at Cedarville University. She grew up in a small town in Ohio and has expanded her horizons in El Salvador and Valencia, Spain, two places which have given her a love for the Spanish language and a desire to continue learning outside of her native tongue.

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