A Home 7,000 Miles Away from Home

By Kehui Li

How little things like the drifting smell of shampoo and warm sunrays bring home closer.

Kehui "Crystal" Li is a junior studying International Relations and Television, Radio, and Film. Photo by Hanna Benavides.

Kehui "Crystal" Li is a junior studying International Relations and Television, Radio, and Film. Photo by Hanna Benavides.


I still remember the day I left my home — Changsha, China. My family stood outside the gate at the airport. I tried my best not to cry in front of them and waved at them. I came to Syracuse with curiosity and worry. I thought the two cities would be miles apart, right from the weather to the size of the city. Changsha is 176 times larger than Syracuse, and the climate is one of the hottest in China. All I knew about Syracuse came from the pictures on the university’s website.

However, after two years of living in Syracuse, I have started to love this city, the people, and even the weather. The city brings me another lifestyle. It reminds me of Changsha in some ways— but not in others.

Here in Syracuse, you can barely see people on the street at night; it was always crowded in Changsha even at midnight. We had late night barbeques or beer; in China, you can have alcohol only after the age of 18, but no one checks your ID even if they suspect that you are underage. Everyone enjoyed one event especially in Changsha— the weekly firework show at Xiang River on Saturdays. The river divided the east and west sides of the city, and sometimes my friends and I would rent some bicycles and ride around the scenic belt around the river when the firework show began.

Syracuse, on the other hand, has pushed me to experience a lifestyle that I didn’t have the chance to try before. The apple-picking, the Great New York State Fair and even just enjoying the sunshine on a summer afternoon gives me a chance to experience a much slower-paced lifestyle than the one I was used to in Changsha.

Changsha and Syracuse actually have similar weathers. This doesn’t sound right, but the weather during the summer in Syracuse is almost the same as in Changsha — so I enjoy it a lot. The humid sun in Changsha conceals itself behind the clouds whereas in Syracuse, the dry sunlight comes directly from the sky.

In winter, though, the weather in Syracuse always surprises me. Snow in Changsha is really rare and growing up, I never got the chance to see much fluffy snow. Most of the time, the snow barely covered a few leaves on the trees, and it seldom lasted longer than a day. I remember how disappointed I was when I woke up in the morning and no signs of snow were left on the tree. In Syracuse, the snow gives me all of the experiences I’ve craved since I was a child. The snow is fluffy, it lasts for weeks and most importantly, it gives me so many opportunities to play. We use plastic boards as skis and slide down slopes; make snowmen together and even lie down on the ground, fully covered in snow. I share photos and videos to my family and friends in Changsha, and these experiences definitely make me love Syracuse more.

In another regard, living in a residence hall took me back to my time as a middle-schooler in Changsha. I lived in Day Hall freshman year, and I was shocked by its layout when I first came there — it was almost the same as the dorm in my middle school. The middle school that I went to had strict rules and boasted outstanding academic performance. The three-year experience was intense, but various school festivals and activities gave me lots of memories with friends and teachers. We spent more time with each other than with our own families.

The atmosphere in Day Hall brings me back to my happiest memories. In middle school, during our small breaks I always liked to lie on my bed after a shower, right before our study period. The smell of shampoo mingled with the smell of the hallway of the dorm, and the sun was going down as dusk set in. I encountered the same experience when I lived in Day. Every day, I finished my classes around 5 p.m. and went back to the dorm. The sunlight would come in through the windows and I would smell the shampoo from the bathroom. It created a connection between my days as a middle-schooler and my time as an older college student, which I think brought Syracuse closer to my heart.

Leaving aside the extreme weather and some of my memories from school, the lifestyles of Syracuse and Changsha are almost totally different from each other. Changsha is more crowded and fast-paced, while Syracuse is much less populated and quieter. I am also certain there are more experiences in Syracuse waiting to be had.

Coming to Syracuse was a turning point in my life. Though Changsha and Syracuse are just as many miles apart as I thought, little things like warm rays of sunlight through the windows and even the fragrance of shampoos bring home a little closer to me. As I enter my third year of living here, I can say with certainty that I have found a home in Syracuse.

Kehui Li is a junior studying International Relations and Television, Radio and Film at Syracuse University.