Eleven times. That’s how many times a Swede moves during a lifetime. We tear up old routines and comfortable contexts, sometimes because we are expected to and sometimes because we want to. And we long for home.
Quite suddenly, you could be struck by that feeling you link to when you were eight years old and it was the first day of camp. Is it homesickness? There is a bed where you live, and you have a toothbrush by the wash basin in your bathroom, but you also have that knot in your stomach. Is it still your home, then?
Monika Edgren is a researcher at Malmö University and explains that we should make a difference between a place to live and home. You live where you have your bed and a kitchen, but that does not necessarily have to be a home.
“A home is a place in your life. It is something continuously being created and produced, a feeling of belonging to a context”, Monika Edgren says.
When we change cities and contexts, our routines are turned around and our lives become something else. It could be voluntary, perhaps we have decided to become students. Or the move is a necessary evil due to separation from a partner or finding a new job.
Today, there is pressure on young people to keep discovering new things and changing contexts. There exists a mentality that it is not as rewarding to remain in one’s childhood city, but that the key to success and happiness lies in moving, preferably to a larger city.
But to many of us, it is important to feel at home in order to feel well. And that does not only go for the context we are in, but also for the actual place where we live – something that is made difficult when we dash about more than ever before.
According to Statistics Sweden, SCB, the average Swede moves eleven times during a lifetime, and young adults are the most frequent movers. This is a number that has increased in the last years. In ages 20 to 29, the average person moves four times.
To many people, it is not an easy thing to settle down in a new city and break up with previous contexts. In a student city like Lund, it is easy to get the feeling that everybody is discovering and getting to know the city, the people, nation life – except from you.
The student priests in Lund have individual dialogues with students who feel that they have something important or personal to talk about. Josefin Andersson primarily works with Swedish students, and she explains that homesickness often comes up in dialogues.
“It is not that uncommon with students coming to us feeling very lost and for whom their time as students has not been what they expected, and that creates homesickness”, Josefin Andersson says.
Jacob Norström is studying to become a fire engineer at the Faculty of Engineering and remembers the feeling of being new in a city. He took over his sister’s apartment, which their parents bought 12 years ago, and has not had to go from sublet to sublet. But despite his comfortable living, it took time to feel at home.
“It is important that you have friends surrounding you. That you find your way to the food store, and inside of it as well. And that you find that painting you like so much”, Jacob Norström says.
During his early time in Lund, he could sometimes wish for a life in a corridor room.
“It would have been nice to have a natural meeting place, such as a corridor kitchen”, he says.
The notion of what is a home is produced when we imagine were we belong. The meaning behind this is that the context and treatment we get at a new place has an important role to play.
Being a student coming to a new city and finding a place in the life being lead there, or to be an immigrant coming to a new country and being forced into different patterns in order to be accepted, can be a challenge.
According to SCB and the Swedish Higher Education Authority, Lund University is one of the centres of learning in Sweden with the largest share of students who also have parents from an academic background.
Of all the new students in Lund, 47 percent come from an academic home. At prestigious educations, such as the doctor and architect programmes, the percentage is even higher, with 70 percent having parents with an academic degree – which could be seen as a reason for not everyone feeling at home and welcome in Lund. Perhaps it is more difficult for students coming from a non-academic background to feel at home in student life with all its peculiarities.
To feel homesick is complicated and varies depending on the situation and person. It could be longing somewhere, to a specific place, or longing for a place to belong, Monika Edgren explains.
Not everyone has as simple a living as Jacob Norström. To be living in your luggage, never being allowed to relax and failing exams because of the stress of finding a new place to live is something many students in Lund have experienced. Felix Andersson is one of them.
“I actually don’t have that many criteria in order to feel at home. Happy and nice neighbours, and being able to relax where I live”, says Felix Andersson, who is studying to become a doctor at Lund University.
Felix Andersson had moved eight times since he arrived in Lund when one day, he was complaining about his living situation at a café and a person came up to him offering a two-room apartment in central Lund.
“That can’t be true”, was his initial thought. Before, he had been living with friends to the family, friends, the families of friends, class mates and had shared 20 square metres with his sister.
The two-room apartment in central Lund was a good alternative, and he is currently renting it together with his sister. The lease is for an ongoing sublet.
“I know Lund by heart, since I have lived in almost all parts of the city. Even if my social life and my studies have been affected to some degree, it has still resulted in several new contacts and friends”, Felix Andersson says.
A place to live and an occupation are two main pillars in our lives – we need somewhere to live to manage our occupation, and we need an income to pay for our housing. It has been shown that just a place to live is not enough for us to feel at home, we also need a context. And perhaps we need to rethink the idea of what a home is, in order for more people to feel at home.
Felix Andersson is in reality called something else.
Text: Camilla Göth
Illustration: Anna Åkesson
Translation: Carl-William Ersgård