Nostalgia’s Ingenious Potential

Often Associated With People Who Are Angry About a Lost Past, These Feelings of Longing Can Help Inspire an Inclusive Future

When 19-year-old Swiss medical student Johannes Hofer first coined the term “nostalgia” in 1688, he had wanderers on his mind.

With this neologism, Hofer was describing the deep melancholy—a “wasting disease”—of students and soldiers, “principally young people and adolescents sent to foreign regions.” These fledgling travelers wandered international campuses, landscapes, and cultures, encountering new experiences that changed how they viewed the world.

Like so many college freshmen today, sometimes they got homesick, wishing for some semblance of stability and normality amongst a tumult of new things and ideas. But even when …