When I first arrived here at Stony Brook, I was literally alone. I flew 1200 miles from a small town in Minnesota by myself with only a carry on suitcase and a small duffle bag, the rest of my stuff being in four large boxes waiting for me in the mailroom. I walked into my room where I promptly met the first of my two roommates in my forced triple. Her parents were also there helping her move in. That was when the first ping of pain hit and my excitement began to die down. I no longer had my parents to rely on. With them working, they weren’t able to come move me into the dorm like any other typical freshman. I had to do this all by myself.
My roommate and her parents went to get food, leaving me to unpack the few belongings I had at the moment by myself. After a quick phone call to my dad, informing him that I had arrived in one piece, I began hauling my four boxes back from the mailroom by myself. This physical struggle was mirroring the mental struggle going on in my head. Had I made the right choice? Is all this going to be worth it? Did I belong here? Should I have stayed and just gone to the University of Minnesota? How long until my first breakdown? I quickly found the answer to the last question: about fifteen minutes into unpacking. I began to cry, not sure what else to do. I didn’t really miss my family yet, it was just the realization that they weren’t going to be here when I needed them was what hurt the most. I had never felt so alone. But I knew I wanted to be here in New York ever since I was 13. So I tried to calm down and held onto the realization that I was on the path to live out my dream.
I had heard that a bunch of the RAs from my quad were taking the new out-of-staters to dinner that night, so I knew that was my opportunity to get out of the funk I had put myself in and be around other people going through the same thing. That night, I met people who are now some of my best friends. They were the people I turned to for the next couple of days while we were all still figuring out where we belonged and basically how to college. Once we got past the first two-week experimental friend period, I had my core group of friends on lock. I had never been happier. Looking back, my future best friends truly saved me that weekend.
Being an out-of-stater is something I don’t think a lot of people realize how hard it is in practice, especially here at Stony Brook. Yes in theory everyone is away from their home, but most students here have the opportunity to just hop on a train and be back home for the weekend. That’s why hearing the comment “Oh you’re from (insert far away state here)? What the f*ck are you doing here?” hurts like hell. It not only makes us second guess why we have moved thousands of miles, but also why we moved to somewhere where other students don’t appreciate how lucky they have it to be able to go to this top ranked school and be close to home. This is an incredible school, that’s why. If you don’t like it, leave and let people who appreciate it have the opportunity.
Moving across the country or even the world is the scariest thing a young person can go through. Most of us don’t go home for the mid-semester breaks and end up being away for months at a time. There’s always phone calls and Skype, but you know it’s not the same as being able to sit and watch trashy TV with your mom, go on a nature walk with your dad on a Sunday afternoon, be held in your grandma’s arms, look into your newborn niece’s eyes and dream of everything she will be able to accomplish, or hear a funny smart-aleck remark from your grandpa at the dinner table (and watch your grandma’s death glare follow even though you know she found it to be hilarious, as well). But when you finally get to do those things, it is the sweetest feeling in the world.
My advice to out-of-staters is focus on the little things you love back home and be okay with missing them. Everyone knows there’s no place like home, that’s why it’s okay to miss it. It’s going to hurt. To quote author John Green, it’s going to hurt because it matters. Then find those people that make the pain bearable or even dissipate for a little while. Friends are the most important things to have in college, especially as an out-of-stater. They become your proxy family and can make you feel so loved when it seems your world is falling apart. With the struggle of being away, you will learn to be independent and mature in ways you wouldn’t think were possible. You will be stronger. Lastly, remember why you want to be here in the first place and know that these sacrifices for your education will all be worth it one day.