By my junior year in high school, college seemed to be the only thing that anyone ever talked about. However, it was mostly the same colleges, as few people from my small, affluent suburb in New Jersey ventured very far.
As I flipped through college guide books, I dog-eared those schools I knew people from my hometown typically gravitated towards.
But the more I thought it over, the less sure I was that I wanted to follow suit.
So I chose greener pastures (literally), and enrolled in a school in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, five hours away from my hometown.
Going to a college outside of my comfort zone was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But it was also one of the best.
1. I learned to be independent.
My college is far enough from my hometown to prohibit my parents from visiting every weekend, and far enough to stop be from regularly bringing home laundry for my mum to do.
When homesickness set in during my first couple of months at school, I learned to persevere without the aid of my parents. Instead, I turned to friends in my dorm. If I had been closer to home, I most likely would have been home every weekend.
2. I’m better off financially
Had I gone to school within my comfort zone, aka New York City, my wallet would have been hurting. While I do have to pay out-of-state tuition, it’s still almost half the cost of many popular schools near my home, such as NYU. My apartment at school also only costs $450, while rent in NYC would easily be double that.
3. I was exposed to a different culture
Going to school below the Mason-Dixon line can be wacky at times. My school is two hours from the nearest cities, Richmond and D.C. That means that I’m in a largely rural environment, which is so different than the concrete jungle I grew up in. I’ve learned to embrace a slower pace of life, and not be wary of friendly people. I’ve even picked up saying “y’all,” much to the chagrin of my friends at home.
4. I gained a new appreciation for my home
Growing up, I took a lot of things about my hometown for granted, like the proximity to New York City and the Jersey Shore. Now, I look forward to coming home, and really appreciate the small things I never used to notice. I’m not sure this would be the case had I gone to a closer college.
5. I discovered new interests
Who knew that I loved hiking? I sure didn’t, at least not until I was mere minutes away from the gorgeous hikes in the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
6. I was able to start over
My hometown is a bit of a bubble. Most of the kids from my high school came to class dressed like it was a fashion show, but things at my college are a bit different. There is less emphasis on what a person is wearing and more on who the person is. It was refreshing to meet people who challenged the bubble I had grown up in.
7. I forged incredible friendships
Had I followed my classmates to those colleges that have a high concentration of my high school’s grads, I probably wouldn’t have made as many new friends as I have. Plus, by going to school further away, I made friends from across the United States.
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