This Is Why You Should Go to College Far From Home

If you had told me four years ago that I would end up at Tulane for college, I probably would have laughed at you. Tulane was a last minute school that I added to my college list and I certainly had no plans to come here. But as the college process worked its terrifying magic, it turned out that I would end up here, in the completely foreign land of New Orleans.

As a true New Englander, the thought of leaving my little Massachusetts suburban town was both scary and exciting. I can’t deny that throughout my four years at Tulane, being so far away from home has had its downfalls and I tend to complain about it more than necessary. But the more I think about it and the more I become nostalgic for a place that I have yet to leave, I’ve realized that going to college far from home played a large part in who I’ve become and contributed greatly to my college experience. With just one more semester looming in front of me (gulp), I can’t help but emphasize the importance of experiencing college far away from home. In the wise words of my mother, “It’s only four years.”

It Made Me Independent

This one may seem obvious, but the independence you learn from being separated from your parents affects you in more ways than you think. Sure, I can do my own laundry and cook meals for myself, but I’ve also learned to handle the majority of the things in my life on my own. WIthout my parents, I’ve managed to survive a hurricane and flooded room the first week of freshman year, learned to navigate in an unfamiliar city, and pay my bills and manage a house. By not having your parents by your side to guide you through everything you do, you’re forced to learn, make decisions, and take actions for yourself. Now that I’m approaching the real world, this independence that I’ve learned gives me the motivation and reassurance that I’ll be able to find a job and successfully start my life as an adult.

I Got to Experience a New City

New Orleans is a city like no other. And when I say that, I mean that sometimes I feel like I’m living on a completely different planet. This city, however, is one of the best places to go to college. There’s always something to do, the weather is warm the majority of the year, and the food and drink culture never disappoints. Every weekend, my roommates and I explore new restaurants and bars or attend a festival or event. And as a Tulane student, I get to experience Mardi Gras four years in a row, something that most people aren’t even lucky enough to experience in their lifetime. If I had remained at a school close by, chances are I would never have had the opportunity to immerse myself in a city and culture that’s so different from the place I come from.

I Have a New Appreciation for My Home and Family

One of the biggest things I’ve realized about being away from my home is just how much I love it. I miss seeing the leaves change color, apple picking, freezing to death in an ice rink during my brother's’ hockey games, going on runs in my neighborhood, and my favorite Thai restaurant. It’s given me a new perspective on my city and every time that I’m home I treat Boston like I’m a tourist. You don’t realize how much you’re missing until you’re gone. By being far I’ve also become closer to my parents and my family. The simple family gatherings that I’m lucky enough to attend are more meaningful because I’m usually not there. It’s not until you leave a place that you appreciate the little things about it. A hug from mom means a lot more when you don’t get to see her that often.

I Found a New Family Here

Being far from your real family forces you to create your own family at school. These people— whether it’s your roommates, friends, or professors—will be the ones you go to for advice, dilemmas, or when you just want a dinner companion. In my time here, my friends have become my family. They’ve been there for me when I have a mental breakdown, bring me chocolate when I’m sad or stressed, and encourage me in whatever endeavors I choose. Like a family, we support each other and have each other to lean on when times get tough. We even have family dinners. When college is said and done, they will be the thing that I’ll miss the most.

I Realized What I Wanted Out of a Relationship

As if leaving your family and home aren’t already hard enough, being far from the person you love adds another complicated element. But by being in a long-distance relationship, I’ve learned what it really takes to make a relationship work. I know you’ve heard it a thousand times before, but a relationship cannot survive without trust, especially a long-distance relationship. Being in a long-distance relationship is hard, but by establishing trust and finding a partner who you trust and who trusts you, things will be easier. When you’re far away, it’s the little things, like a good morning text, that matter. There’s no time for unnecessary drama or dumb arguments. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to be grateful for the seemingly boring things that couples who live in the same place get to experience together everyday.

I’ve Become a Savvy Traveler

Before college, I had never traveled far from home, with the exception being two trips to Disney World and a road trip to Canada. Going to college taught me everything I needed to know about navigating airports, transportation, packing, and booking trips. Need to pack two weeks of clothing into a small carry-on? Lie everything flat, don’t fold anything, and wear your bulkiest clothes on the plane. Best day and time to book flights? Tuesday nights. Need an app to find you the best deals? Hopper. Learning how to travel well and in the most efficient way possible is a skill that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. Without college, I probably would never have learned this or traveled as much if I had stayed close to home.   

It's Part of Who I Am Today

All of these small elements have contributed largely to the person I've bcome. In only four years, being far from home has made me stronger, more independent, and a problem solver. I’ve learned how to be okay with being far from the people I love and that time with them is invaluable. I’ve formed my own family and I’m not afraid to rely on others when I need them. But most importantly, I’ve gained an entirely new experience living in a foreign place. The memories I’ve made here and the experiences I’ve had could never measure up to college life close to home. So for those of you applying to college, grad-school, or contemplating time in a unfamiliar city, consider stepping outside of your comfort zone. Go far from home and use it as an experience to learn more about yourself and to make some amazing memories. Afterall, four years goes by a lot faster than you think.