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The Pros and Cons of “Going Away” to College 30 Minutes From Home

Never in a million years would I have expected to attend UC Berkeley… not because I didn’t think I’d get in (I REALLY didn’t think I’d get in) but because I grew up a 30-minute drive west of campus in Marin County. 

As I’m sure many of my fellow Bay Area Bears can relate, I was asked nonstop during the college application process if I would “actually go to Berkeley” if I got in. Eventually, I started answering the question so often that my response became automatic:

–– “Would you actually––”

–– “I’d really have to think about it.” 

Upon logging in to the Application Portal last Spring and seeing confetti fill my computer screen, however, I knew I didn’t have to think about it too hard… GO BEARS!

Still, I was apprehensive about being so close to home at the beginning of my Cal experience because I had always looked at college as my chance for a new experience. In fact, while it was my original intention to go to school as far from home as money would take me––to experience different weather, to explore a new area, to avoid old high school friends––I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I’ve come to realize that there are pros and cons to being so close to home, as going to college in the next county is still a very “new experience.”

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

Pros:

  • Easy transition from high school to college ~ Location may not play a huge role in many students’ transition into college… Lots even said “the farther the better” as they formed their college lists! Nevertheless, being close to home has been a blessing for me thus far. For example, I only had to drive 30 minutes the morning of move-in day and had my parents nearby when I forgot laundry detergent! Likewise, already being familiar with the Bay Area has helped me feel much less isolated in my first weeks of school. College can include a period of adjustment for any student, and going through those changes far from home can make you homesick. By staying close to home, you’ll have support from family and perhaps even friends while tackling the next big chapter of your life. 

  • Home-cooked meals for you and your roommates ~ Don’t like the dining hall food? Don’t want to pay to go out for food instead? Get a home-cooked meal! I have not yet gone home for a home-cooked meal, but my mom has offered it––and I’m looking forward to sharing my hometown with my suitemates we all manage to make our schedules align. To sleep in my own bed, eat chicken noodle soup, and pet my dog when I’m sick, too? I would not be opposed! I love my roommates, mattress topper, and weekly FaceTimes with my pets and all, but being cared for certainly doesn’t suck either. 

  • There’s still an opportunity for total independence ~ Being close to home does not mean you have to see your parents all of the time or feel bogged down by familiarity. Everything is a choice! In fact, I’ve neither felt a need nor a desire to travel home just yet because Berkeley feels so wildly different from my part of the Bay Area. Surrounded by new people, new classes, and new eating habits on a new campus, who needs to really “go away” to have independence? I am independent and adapting to college just the same as my friends on the East Coast or even SoCal! My house, parents, and favorite restaurants are just a $30 Uber ride away if I want it, but I don’t… Sorry, Mom. It has only been one month, and the Cal campus and the city of Berkeley have already claimed a large part of my heart!

  • A Little In-State Tuition Never Killed Nobody ~ ‘nuff said. 

    notes pinned to a board
    Photo by Patrick Perkins from Unsplash

Cons:

  • Less of an opportunity for a fresh start/reinvention of yourself ~ College is often exciting for people because it’s finally a chance to “reinvent” themselves. Sadly, going to the same university as ten of my high school peers and living in the same city as three of my middle school teachers does not allow for the same freedom to become even a slightly different version of myself. Any college experience will allow a person to grow and change and create new social circles and memories, but by staying close to home for college or attending the same school as many of your peers, mistakes and expectations may just follow you. 

  • Missing out on a chance to really broaden your horizons ~ Fact is, you may never leave. At least, my biggest fear coming to Cal––and for the next four years––is that I’ll never leave Northern California… Unfortunately, even by going to such a great university, I am missing out on the opportunity to live in a new region. I don’t get to experience true weather and changing seasons. I don’t get to explore “new places” like my roommates and friends will, hailing from Arkansas to India. I don’t get to adopt a new professional sports team, as my loyalty still lies with the Warriors, Giants, and 49ers across the Richmond Bridge. College is a foreign place for all incoming students, but there’s definitely something more exciting about being in a new state or country!

  • Everyone seems cooler than you for coming from elsewhere ~ People are always disappointed when I tell them I’m from Marin County, just 20 miles west of Berkeley… In fact, the millisecond it leaves my mouth, I just become one of hundreds of unordinary locals. Why didn’t I choose a school far away somewhere where I could be as elusive as the theater kid from northwest Arkansas or competitive skiier from Wyoming? Alas, there are trade-offs that need to be made in picking a college… You might become less cool by going to college closer to home, but at least it costs less?

Sydney Segal

UC Berkeley '23

Short (5'3") and sweet.
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