Homer’s “Odyssey” opens with an argument between Athena and Zeus over Odysseus’ homecoming. Athena urges Zeus to bring Odysseus home, stating that he’s “longing for his wife and his homecoming,” or in other words, he’s homesick.
Much like Odysseus, Jeremy Duchin, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences from Dallas, yearns for home. However, Duchin’s homesickness didn’t lead him on a tribulating journey back home. Instead, he embarked on a different kind of journey.
Instead of a violent capture by the cyclops Polyphemus, Duchin has loads of paperwork. Instead of a conflict with the six-headed monster Scylla, Duchin has to organize an interest meeting. Instead of reaching Ithaca, Duchin successfully created the AU Texans Club.
“I started the AU Texans Club my first year here,” said Duchin “I missed home.”
In Duchin’s first year at AU, he felt a much stronger connection from people he met from Texas than with other students. After a joking conversation with AU student and fellow Texan Bradley Harmon, the idea for his new club began to gain traction. The two partnered up, completed the correct paperwork, wrote a constitution and by October 2014, they were officially a recognized club.
At its first meeting in November, around 20 students showed up. Now, the club has over 100 students on the mailing list and recently won the award for excellence in community building from Student Activities.
“I wanted to make a space that people from Texas can meet other people from Texas,” Duchin said. “There’s a shared experience there, a shared background.”
In seventh grade, Texas students have the unique experience of taking Texas history. During history class for the entirety of seventh grade, students learn about Texas’s long history, such as the nine-year period from 1836 to 1845 when Texas was its own country.
Students also learn about the origin of Six Flags theme park and learn how the park garnered its name. The first Six Flags opened in August of 1961 in Arlington, Texas, under the name Six Flags over Texas, a name derived from the six countries that had sovereignty over Texas: Spain (1519-1821), France (1685-1690), Mexico (1821-1836), The Republic of Texas (1836-1845), the Confederate States of America (1861-1865) and the United States (1845-1861, 1865-present).
Dutchin made it clear that AU Texans is not a political club; it’s a club of students with shared experiences of certain restaurants, similar places, weather conditions and Texas history. While the name may seem otherwise, the Texas club is not exclusive and very welcoming to non-Texan members. Eric Heigis, a senior in the School of Public Affairs and one of the club’s most dedicated members, is from Orange County, California.
“The Texans club is a great way to express my inner Texan,” Heigis said. “I throw on my pair of cowboy boots, which I’m usually already wearing, and can go to events with Hill Country Barbecue, learn how to two-step, make guacamole or play Texas hold’em.”
In addition to being a member of AU Texans, Heigis also interned for a Texan on the Hill. He said he found the culture of Texas appealing and has enjoyed being a part of the club thus far.
Since AU Texans is a fairly new club, Duchin is still working on creating a strong community that he says will come naturally as the club has more events. One weekly event he’s trying to start is Taco Tuesday with Texans. Riffing off the Terrace Dining Room’s Taco Tuesday, the Texans Club will meet for dinner in TDR every Tuesday night and eat tacos together.
Next semester, the club will host a Texas hold’em event with professional dealers for an authentic Texan experience. There’s no entrance fee, and there will be no rebuys or add-ons; players must compete with just the number of chips that they start with. Prizes include a $50 gift certificate to the D.C. restaurant Hill Country Barbecue and a Texas-shaped waffle maker.
“For me, missing Texas is missing the southern hospitality,” Duchin said. “It’s the people that you really miss. Homesick is missing my family.”
Like Odysseus, to Duchin, home does mean family, and homesickness means missing family. But unlike The Odyssey, this story has a happy ending.