Committing to UMass Amherst my senior year of high school, I was primarily bursting with excitement. I had looked forward to college for so long, and I now knew where I would be living, what classes I would be taking, and who my amazing roommate would be. However, I was nervous about attending a state school where a majority of the students are from Massachusetts. I came into college knowing no one and having no comfort of a hometown friend to hang out with the first week of college as everything felt so new.
Being the end of the year, I find myself reflecting back on my experience as an out-of-state student. To be completely honest, it certainly was not an easy adjustment. I found myself getting frustrated every time I would meet a large group of people only to realize I was the only one not from Massachusetts, standing confused as they all stated their hometowns and found subtle connections that I could not relate to. I had many doubts if maybe I should have gone to my in-state university, wishing I could experience what everyone else was as they met people from nearby towns they could see no matter whether we were at school or not.
Some of the best advice I would give to those who are in the same boat as me is to try not to overthink, as you will find the best friends for you no matter if they are in-state or out-of-state. Some of my best friends are from Massachusetts, while others are from states such as New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Texas. Branch out no matter how uncomfortable you might feel, and find others you connect with. At the end of the day, it can benefit you, even more, being out-of-state as you can share experiences and start conversations that someone else has likely never heard before.
The next tip that helped me tremendously was taking a look at your class’s Facebook or Instagram page prior to coming to college. As I looked through posts and followed people, I would specifically reach out to those who were attending UMass from the same state as me. This created an immediate similarity, and it can also be especially handy if you need to quickly go home and are looking for a ride or travel buddy. Using this technique, I found one of my closest friends here who I plan to see as much as possible during the summer due to our close proximity.
Lastly, bring reminders of home for your dorm room! I brought tons of pictures and posters that reminded me of my state and hometown, which helped tremendously as I got homesick in the first semester and wished to be home with my friends and family. As out-of-state students, we typically do not go home as much as those who are in-state, and having little reminders and pieces of home in your dorm room can help as you have a tough day or feel the strong urge to just go home.
Though it’s a hard adjustment and takes some time, being an out-of-state student is not as daunting as it may seem. I am so happy I chose UMass Amherst and not my state school, and I have zero regrets about my decision. Trusting the process of finding your friend group will help tremendously, and eventually, you will begin to realize that the state you are from really does not matter in college!