Tomorrow is the first day of classes at UW-Stout, and also my first day of teaching! I am really excited for it.

One of my goals is to get to know my students by name. With nearly 120 students among the three classes that I am teaching, that may be difficult, but I will at least start it by doing an ice-breaker in class.

Ice-breakers vary, but all of them have the purposes of getting to know the people around you. Yet, this post is not so much about ice-breakers as it is with one of  the common data given in said activities.

That question: “What is your hometown?”

The interesting point: this is not always a straightforward question!

The definition on Merriam-Webster says, “the town or city where a person was born or grew up. Also, the place of one’s principal residence.”

Although “was born” is an indisputable term, I think that the terms “grew up” and “principal  residence” are very much subject to interpretation, and can lead to multiple places being dubbed hometowns. Let me explain through my situation!

For some students, they may have lived in the place that they were born from Age -3/4 until their current age. In that case, the hometown question is obvious.

But, I think that most people move inter-city at least once between birth and graduation from high school. In that case, hometown in college is not always a cut-and-dried question.

Thus far in my life, I have lived in six different towns/cities:

  • Birth: Indianapolis, IN.
  • Infancy until age 4: Wichita, KS.
  • Age 4 to 9 (i.e., up to grade 3): Fort Dodge, IA.
  • Age 9 to 22 (between grade 4 and B.S.): Lincoln, NE.
  • Age 22 to 28 (between M.S. and Ph.D.): Evanston, IL.
  • Current: Menomonie, WI.

When I was at UNL for college, questions about hometown were easy for me, as although the pre-Lincoln years were certainly formative for me, they didn’t factor into my hometown call, since by the time I had enrolled full-time at UNL, I had been in Lincoln half of my life. Also, I have no clear, explicit memories from Wichita (and obviously not from Indianapolis).

But for some other students, where they graduated from high school might not be their self-appointed hometown! Maybe they lived in the place for only a year, and wanted to expunge that memory from their banks. Maybe they were an exchange student or went to a prep school elsewhere. Maybe there are other reasons that I can’t think of, since I have not heard these stories.

The question of hometown was still easy for me once I had gotten to Northwestern, even into my fifth and sixth year, I would still claim Lincoln as my hometown, since my parents still lived there and I went back there every winter break.

Here’s a big question. Once a person has graduated from college, does the term “hometown” still make sense?

Based on the three sub-clauses of the definition, I could claim to have as many as three hometowns! Indianapolis is the only clear-cut answer (where I was born), but I don’t self-identify it as a hometown since I have no memories from there. Though I spent the latter part of my childhood in Lincoln, I grew up quite a bit in Fort Dodge, particularly since that was the time that I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome.

I might even be able to claim Evanston as the place that I really grew up, since it was my first time living (almost) completely independently (i.e., my parents were still paying for my phone and insurance bills), and particularly in 2011 and afterward, I experienced major maturation in my social, intellectual, and spiritual life.

Just some food for thought for new college students and new graduates/people starting their first job!


Math 121: Next right!

Rosh Hashanah: 6 days.

Memorial Stadium: 46 days.

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