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Friday, January 28, 2022
Independence is where the heart is

Trapped in house

Independence is where the heart is

Just as the Fourth of July marks America's independence from England, so too does Welcome Week for incoming freshmen from their childhood homes, families and daily routines. This momentous occasion is coupled with excitement and anxiety about meeting new people, surviving dorm life and navigating the various buildings on campus.

Most importantly, students like UW-Madison freshman Jacob Wolbert look forward to being on their own for the first time and away from parental supervision.

""I think [being independent] is something that's really important for my own individual growth,"" Wolbert said. ""I like independence because I like being able to make my own decisions, even if they're the wrong decisions.""

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This increased feeling of autonomy is a critical part of the growing up process said UHS Mind-Body Coordinator Bob McGrath.

""Independence and decision making is important to most people,"" he said. ""It's a part of personal development.""

Yet during the summer, when soon-to-be sophomores move back home, they are once again confronted with chores, curfews and authority, and must work to balance their new freedom with their old home.

UW-Madison sophomore Steven Hoerning said his parents' supervision became frustrating, especially toward the end of the summer when he started to plan for his new apartment.

""I always had a voice in my ear saying what I need and what I don't need,"" Hoerning said.

He said this constant counseling made him feel like a kid again.

""When I'm living at home it's like it was for the first 18 years of my life,"" he said. ""It's hard to make that adjustment.""

McGrath explained parents are also going through a period of transition.

UW-Madison alumnus Lauren Meyers, who is a parent of two UW-Madison sophomores, said it was challenging to adapt to everyone's individual schedules.

""It's difficult to get used to from a parent's perspective; to get used to not having anybody here and then people start coming home at two or three in the morning and you're not used to being woken up,"" she said.

Meyers said there was tension between acknowledging expectations of the household and also respecting personal space.

""We're not looking to squash that privacy and that autonomy but on the other hand, if you're going to come home and live in our house you're going to have to make some compromises on your end,"" she said.

UW-Madison sophomore Peter Studer said his adjustment back home this summer was enjoyable because he felt free to do what he wanted.

""I still ended up having a good time with my friends and finding work and doing stuff on my own instead of sitting at home doing whatever with my parents,"" he said. ""Keeping that independence is a big thing.""

Home Improvement

Yet sometimes the line between maintaining independence and rebelling can get blurry for students and their families.

UW-Madison sophomore Ranna Vakilizadeh moved back home for the summer and immediately noticed a strain on her relationship with her parents.

""Even though [my parents] would let me go out and do whatever I wanted, I know they were still waiting up for me and questioning what I was doing,"" she said.

Vakilizadeh said she discounted whether her parents approved of what she did, and didn't understand why they tried to limit how much she went out or make her feel guilty when she did.

""I would be like, ‘Wow, this past whole year I was doing whatever I wanted and this next year I can do whatever I want again so what are you trying to do?'"" she said.

McGrath said many students struggle with the transition of moving home, especially when they feel as though their every action is under a magnifying glass.

""To some people [moving in with their parents] can feel like, ‘I'm being monitored or not as free to make my own choices'."" He explained these feelings often lead to misunderstanding and unnecessary stress.

Home Alone

Stricter rules and expectations aren't the only factors influencing students' independence when they come home for the summer. UW-Madison senior Cherish Westin said she didn't have friends or a job the summer after freshman year to keep her productive.

""It was probably the most boring summer ever,"" she remembered. ""I sat at home basically every day."" Rather than enjoying her vacation from school, all she could think about was returning to it.

Born and raised in a suburb outside of St. Paul, Westin's family moved to Utah once she came to Madison for college.

Without a social life or a list of job contacts in Salt Lake City, Westin's confidence, and in turn, independence, suffered.

""Most of my life I feel like I've been independent… because I've had a job ever since high school,"" she said.

So when Westin couldn't find work for two months, she felt like she was missing out on new experiences, money for school, and opportunities to meet people.

""If you're realizing, ‘Oh I'm not doing anything with my life,' you're going to just think you're pathetic,"" she said.

Westin said once she found a job, she felt relieved and happy again. ""Just feeling useful boosts your self esteem.""

McGrath said it's not always the parents that students resent, but rather the idea of change. ""Not only has their former home changed, but their whole culture has changed since being away,"" he said.

Home (Bitter)sweet Home

Although most students admit they still welcome home cooked meals, maximize on free laundry, and rely on help with that one impossible physics problem, they said simply being able to make some adult decisions on their own terms is empowering.

""To a certain extent, with advisors and with my parents only a mile away, I'm not fully independent yet,"" Wolbert said. ""But it's a step in the right direction.""

Hoerning agreed that being able to make mistakes is what growing up is all about.

""You can't just call your dad your whole life when something goes wrong,"" he said. ""You got to learn the hard way, and I guess I think it will pay off in the long run.""

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