When I meet someone new at college, the cycle is almost the same in every situation. We exchange names, and the next question is “Where are you from?” Everyone here in New Jersey is very proud about what part of the state they are from, and I’ve found that at this point, it’s just best to nod like I know exactly where they came from. When I respond with “I’m from Ohio” it’s like their world has been completely shattered. At a college with a 1% out-of-state population, people not from New Jersey are pretty hard to find.
Then comes my favorite part: the questions. The best one I’ve gotten is “Are you still on Ohio time right now?” Well technically, yes. Of course, that is because we live in the same time zone, so our time is your time. Then there are others like “Is Ohio near Kansas? I’ve always pictured it as a state in that area of the United States.” Nope. We are only separated by a state. Though Pennsylvania is pretty huge. “Do you live on a farm” Yes. But not everyone does. “What does Ohio even do?” Elect Presidents as a swing state, essentially. “Do you watch football?” Nope. Of course the one sport we really excel at, I don’t care for. The questions go on and on, but they all lead up to the same one “What brought you from Ohio, all the way to Galloway, New Jersey?”
It all goes back to August of 2013. I wanted to go out-of-state for college, almost more than anything I’ve wanted in my entire life. When the opportunity arises through a friend to attend a college out in the pine barrens of New Jersey, I jumped on it. I thought that convincing my dad would be the hardest part, so I channeled my studious side and created a two page document on why I should be able to go to Stockton College (now University), complete with maps, cost comparisons, and a list of what I would do in the next year to prove I should be allowed. After a night of nerve-wracking waiting to hand my dad the paper (because I was downright terrified) I sat in my living room and finally managed to hand it over. In less than a minute he sat the paper down, and said “Sure, you can go to New Jersey.” Obviously I had to get scholarships and excellent SAT scores, but hearing that phrase was so entirely liberating I threw my heart and soul into achieving that goal. And exactly a year later, I was moving into my apartment.
The eight hour drive to get here? Terrible. The train ride home for winter break? Arduous. But the opportunities I have had the past year? Entirely worth being so far from home. All of my friends, old and new alike, constantly asked me how I was able to quell the homesickness. The answer was a simple one- I just keep busy. While at Stockton I’ve toured the communications department for the Philadelphia Phillies. I’ve watched a session of the Supreme Court happen right in front of my eyes. I’ve had the ability to take multiple day trips to New York City, and see the live tapings of several television shows. I became a staff writer for our student newspaper, The Argo, which really showed me I’m doing exactly what I love to do. And my personal favorite event this year, was the opportunity to represent our newspaper at The New York times for an editing workshop. My business doesn’t stop there, I’ve also started planning out internships I will take the next couple of years. One of them will taking me to Washington D.C. for an entire semester. I might have just made a big move, but now that I’ve had a taste of living somewhere entirely new, nothing can stop me from seizing more opportunities!
Sometimes I need to take a step back from all of these class and career related things to clear my mind (which also abates homesickness). I love doing Zumba, so much so that I actually schedule my academic classes so they don’t interfere with it, because as the coursework gets harder it’s always good to have an hour of time to dance and regain some sanity. I also started running through the development I live in- It’s really a plus to live somewhere you can run right out your front door (the hills at home aren’t very conducive to running). I’m nowhere near a professional runner, it’s mostly just running and me goofing off and mouthing words to the songs I’m listening to, occasionally using my iPod as a microphone. It looks silly, but it makes me happy. Finding these little things, activities that can put you at peace with yourself, are essential to combating stress and not burning out.
All in all, don’t be afraid of trying something completely new and out of the box for college. Spending 18 years in one town is all well and good, but there is a huge world out there just waiting to be explored. The fear of being away from home shouldn’t be the one thing deterring you. If you are afraid of how your guardians will react when you ask them, don’t be. The worst they could say is no, and even then you have time to prove with all of your heart and soul you want to go to college at the school you are looking at. And when someone asks you where you are from and why you came to your particular college? Be proud of your story. I know I’m proud of mine, and I can’t wait to see where I will go next. Like Indiana Jones says in Raiders of the Lost Ark, “It’s not the years honey. It’s the mileage,” and I intend on making every last mile I travel in my life count for something.