Homecoming holds a special place in my heart. When I first started high school, my school spirit was at an all-time high. And I wasn’t the only one – everyone seemed to care about school with so much vigor and passion.
But, my appreciation for Homecoming dwindled over the past two years – primarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In my senior year of high school, I even asked myself, ‘Why should I care about Homecoming?’ but couldn’t find a compelling reason. So, when news about Stony Brook’s Homecoming was shared, I didn’t think much about it. But there was still a small part of me that hoped I could get that similar nostalgic experience.
To my surprise, the weather was perfect when I stepped outside my freshman dorm. Beautiful orange-reddish leaves gingerly fell with help from a gentle breeze, as a gradually warming sun peeked around, clearing morning clouds. ‘Maybe things would be different this time around,’ I thought.
While waiting for a friend outside, I was approached by an alum from the ’70s, asking if I knew where an event was being held. I gave her the directions, but continued the conversation, learning all about her time at Stony Brook University. At the end of our brief exchange, I had this uncanny feeling. I didn’t realize what it was until later that afternoon, as a friend and I walked around the Homecoming tailgate taking pictures of one another. I overheard tons of cheers from all edges of the large parking lot, “I haven’t seen you in forever,” from one group of friends, “you know, when I went here,” in another corner. And that’s when it hit me. The feeling I had earlier was contentment mixed with joy – kernels of future nostalgia were being forged. I thought to myself, ‘Wow, college is really worth it.’
Of course, I’d like to get a degree. But I also wanted that sense of elation and belonging I seemed to have lost long ago. Perhaps it’s not the same feeling I had in high school, but it’s one that’s growing with each of my experiences on campus. This year’s Homecoming certainly made me look forward to a future where I’m the one talking about how things were ‘back when I was in college.’
— Viyang Hao ’26