New Places, New Faces: Making the Leap

When I was first filling out my college applications, I couldn’t believe it. It seemed like the last 18 years in my hometown had completely flown by. I would sit in my high school’s cafeteria with friends I had known since kindergarten. I would drive home in my mom’s old car that had been patiently waiting in the driveway until I got my license. I would sit on a couch where I had watched everything from Sesame Street to Pretty Little Liars. Applying to college is the realization that everything you thought was permanent is, in a word, temporary.

So my college hunt began. I had a wonderful counselor, stacks of resource books, school pamphlets up the wazzo, and a patient audition coach. I was all set. But as my list dwindled down to two schools – one in the New York countryside and one in the heart of Southern California (Hi, Chapman!) – nothing could have prepared me for leaving my life in Illinois behind. However, you bet your buttons I’m glad I did.

Sure, there are many benefits to staying close to home. It’s easier to see your family, you might have a car accessible to you, and you can always run back and grab that dress you left behind when you need it. But, going further away definitely has its advantages too.

Independence, for one! I went to a small high school, and even though Chapman’s population is considered small, 1,100+ per grade seemed massive to me when I first arrived on campus. At the time, I was also the first graduate of my high school to come to Chapman in over twenty years, so there weren’t any alumni running around that I could turn to for questions. But hey, guess what? Even though you’re newly “independent”, you are not alone.

You’ve probably been told this countless times, but college really is your chance to start fresh – especially if you’re hundreds of miles away from home. And even if it seems like you’re just a little fish in a massive new pond, the size will seem to shrink as you realize that every single freshman in your orientation group feels the same way. Take a risk. Say hi to someone – trust me, they won’t think you’re weird for being outgoing. They’ll appreciate it. You might even make a lifelong best friend.

Being independent also means that you’re the one in charge of you now – not your parents. You might dye a few white clothes pink in the process, but you’ll learn from your mistakes and become a master launderer, budgeter, and time manager. If you need help, your parents are just a phone call away (they’ve been there too, remember).

Going away to school also means you’ll be immersed in a completely new culture – whether you’re going the next state over or jumping from coast to coast. Experiencing a new and different way of life is vital to becoming a well-rounded person. That being said, you’ll also meet people from all around the world and all walks of life. You’ll learn how to tolerate a difficult roommate, or how to relate to someone with a completely different political affiliation. You will learn valuable lessons about communicating with others that will stay with you long after graduation.

Attending school in a different state also allows you to create two homes: one where your family and childhood friends are, and one where the “independent you” lives. What’s better than having two places to call your own? Before you know it, you’ll have a solid group of friends, be joyfully swamped with activities, captivating classes, and an amazing new place where there is so much to explore.

Summer Blair, a sophomore from New York, says it best: “It’s rough at first. My first Thanksgiving away from my family was definitely rough. But I’ve always wanted to be in California, and coming here was a sacrifice that I was willing to make. I love it, and I’ve found so many great people at Chapman that made it feel like home.”

From all of us who have “made the leap”, we can guarantee this: it was 100% worth it.

Xo, C