After years of living at home, many students make the difficult decision to leave and attend college far away from their families. As an out-of-state student, I too found myself in the position of leaving my family behind and traveling across the country for my college years.
At first, I was anxious and eager to embrace my newfound independence and experience freedom from my parents and my very involved family that I had lived with for eighteen years. However, once at school, I watched my in-state friends as they visited home on weekends, had their parents come to take them to dinner and even went home to do their laundry. I quickly realized the family and support system that I had taken for granted for so many years was now over 3,000 miles away. Now that I am in my third year of college, I feel as if I have developed a profound appreciation for my family as well as perfected innovative ways to connect with them from afar and spend time with them while at home.
I am very lucky to have a large extended family that supports me in all of my endeavors. I grew up with the special experience of having the majority of my extended family all live in the same neighborhood, with my aunts and uncles acting as my babysitters, my grandparents as a second set of parents and my cousins growing up with me as siblings. My unique situation made adjusting to life thousands of miles away from the people I had grown up with all the more difficult. I initially embraced my new life with open arms, exhilarated by the prospects of new friendships and experiences, but as the holiday season approached, I felt a newfound sense of longing for my family’s gatherings and celebrations.
My intense fear of missing out had always pertained to my friendships, but I had never experienced this concerning my family. I had to adjust to the idea of not flying back for every holiday or missing my cousins’ birthdays and even family weddings. The lack of family in my everyday life pushed me to appreciate every moment that I was with them at home.
When I get the chance to visit home now, the position of my family in the importance of who I allocate my time to has completely shifted. No longer putting my family on the back burner, I make sure to always be present at my grandparents’ weekly cookouts in the summer or even just stop by to spend quality time with the people that I love. An appreciation that I should have held throughout my whole life has finally come to fruition now with my time apart from them.
Social media and cell phones have also made my time away from family much more manageable. I can call my parents whenever I have questions, see my family’s updates on Instagram and Facebook and even FaceTime my 11-year-old cousin before she goes trick-or-treating on Halloween.
My advice to you is to learn from my experience. I urge you not to take your family and support systems for granted. Cherish and appreciate what you have while you can because you never know the places that life might take you next. Text or call your loved ones and show them the appreciation that they truly deserve (or just send them this article and make them read it if you’re too stubborn to say it to their face). No matter how far away they are, hug your family a little bit tighter the next time that you see them.