The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Going to a State School as an Out-of-State Student

I grew up in South Florida and, as in most states, many of my high school peers went to one of our top three state schools: University of Florida, Florida State University, and University of Central Florida. From the moment I stepped into high school, I knew that wouldn’t be the path for me. I was determined to step out of my comfort zone and try something new by going to an out of state school. When senior year of high school rolled around, I had applied to 13 universities, 10 of which were out of state. Flash forward to May 1st and I had decided to attend The University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

Image Courtesy of the Author

 

I was overjoyed at the thought of going to a new place, meeting new people, and trying new things. I spent my summer soaking up a lot of sun, as well as spending precious time with family and friends. The nerves of moving away from home didn’t truly hit me until I actually moved into my dorm. My roommate, who also happens to be my best friend from back home, was just as nervous about the adventure ahead as I was. I found comfort in having her by my side through this adjustment period and having each other has made it easier for both of us. Nonetheless, throughout the first few days of school, we had to adjust to things like living in a small dorm, communal bathrooms, and getting around campus.  As the semester progressed, this Florida girl had to get used to the rapidly dropping temperatures (a difficult task if I do say so myself). 

Shot by David Sherry

More importantly, I had to learn how to navigate the social life of my new school. It was easy to see friends back home who had all gone to school together, having the time of their lives. The curated and carefully-chosen pictures and videos of people’s wildest nights in college that I saw on my feed made me doubt my decision. It was easy to see this fake-reality and feel like I was the only one who was homesick and hadn’t fully settled into my new life. When I would talk to my friends from home and tell them how I was feeling, they would remind me that social media is a collection of high points in people’s lives and that the low points weren’t being publicized.  So, I took that reminder and ran with it for the rest of the semester and tried to push myself out of my comfort zone. Because UMass is a state school, it’s inevitable that people are going to know each other. It seemed as though I had blinked, and people had created cliques and with them, high walls that guarded their friendships; meaning no one was coming in or out.  Although it was tough, the best thing I could have done was put myself out there (that’s easier said than done, I know). It took time and a lot of failed social attempts, but slowly and surely, I found people who I grew to consider my friends. I also got a job and met people that way and joined clubs around campus. It’s the cheesiest line and everyone will tell you the same thing, but to meet friends and find your people you need to try everything and anything and just start saying yes!

Despite having a job to keep me busy and friends to hang out with, the homesickness was real. My friends at school can drive two hours or less and be at their house or at a friend’s neighboring school. They get to see their families and friends on random weekends and not just specific holiday breaks. It’s tough to be an out-of-state student and I honestly never thought I would be this homesick, but it’s a learning process. I’ve learned to value facetime calls with my mom and my family because for the majority of the year that’s as close as we get to seeing each other. I’ve also learned to love my time at school. 

Going to an out-of-state university has proven to be more challenging than I ever thought. I have come across obstacles that I never thought I’d meet, causing me to reach tumultuous breaking points. But I have also enjoyed doing things I had never done at home. I got to experience my first real winter and what it’s like to live with snow… for four months (and counting). I’ve met some really amazing people and just recently I’ve started to get back on the gym grind. I’ve explored neighboring towns and even made it all the way to Boston for the Super Bowl parade. I’ve had a myriad of new experiences that have validated my decision to go to an out-of-state school. Although at times challenging, I’m proud of myself for pushing forward with my ambitions and my goals, and I urge anyone who is thinking of going to an out-of-state university to do the same.

All images courtesy of author.