What to Expect from Going to College Far from Home (Spoiler: It’s Amazing!)

I’m currently a senior at UNH and while I’m not going through the typical senior-year experiences I had been anticipating, it has given me a lot of time to reflect on my time in New Hampshire over the past three years. I chose to go to University of New Hampshire for no real rhyme or reason other than these: the campus was pretty (I love brick buildings), it was in New England (I love fall) and there were mountains (I’ve had a growing infatuation with these after growing up in the Midwest).

person hiking Photo by Samuel Clara from Unsplash

When I tell people that last little bit, that I’m from the Midwest (Minnesota to be specific), I watch people’s eyes grow wider and their eyebrows draw together in a look of utter concern and confusion. “You’re from Minnesota? Why are you here? Why did you come to New Hampshire? Is it hard being so far away from home? Do you miss your parents? Do you feel like you’re missing out on things at home? How often do you go home? How long of a drive would it be from Minnesota to here? Woahhh Minnesota is in a different time zone, it’s that far?!” And so on and so forth. I have to make a conscious effort not to sound too robotic when I respond to these questions that I’ve been asked countless times over the past three years. When people are so shocked that I moved 1,000 miles from home to go to college, I often wonder why more people don’t do it. With that being said, if you are a high school student starting to think about colleges or a current college student thinking about transferring, here are some things to expect from going far from home and reasons why I love it!

Independence. Yes, everybody gains a sense of independence when they go to college. You’re living on your own for the first time, you’re possibly making your own meals or at least you’re making your own decisions in the dining hall (first tip: give into the freshman fifteen a little bit, dining hall can actually be pretty dang good). But you gain even more independence by not having your parents or siblings in the vicinity. If you’re sick, you have to scope out the doctor and make the appointment yourself (shoutout tonsilitis sophomore year). If you have a car on campus and you have to get the oil changed, the battery dies, or something else happens, you have to call someone for help or figure out where to bring it to get. But yes, I still give the person fixing my car my dad’s phone number. Going to college far from home gives you the chance to gain even more skills that you might not learn until after you graduate college.

Strength. Second piece of advice: Cry. It. Out. Even if you absolutely hate crying, don’t hold it in because it will give you a headache. Just let it all out and let yourself wallow when you first get to college whether you’re close to home or far away! If you think about it, it can only go up from there! But something else important to note: you might be sad right away or you might not be sad until a couple weeks into the semester. Either way, embrace it and be proud of yourself for how much you're growing :)

Opportunities. The opportunities in college are endless in general, but think about how going to college in a different city or state can open up job/internship possibilities. Don’t mistake this for feeling like you need to know exactly what you want to do with your life because you absolutely do not. I did not have even a rough idea of what I wanted to do until I was a junior! But by going to college right near Portsmouth and a little over an hour outside of Boston, I knew that once I settled on a major and career path, that would be a great place to start looking for experience opportunities.

New Hobbies & Activities. If you go to college far away, you almost have no choice but to step out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s making friends, joining clubs, rushing, stepping into a leadership position, it’s all new and intimidating when you don’t know anybody going into it. Ultimately, just jump into it. Everyone around you is feeling the same sort of intimidation and anxiousness and everybody is looking for friends, so initiate the conversation no matter how much you’re dreading it because the other person will be grateful for it. Being in a new environment (whether it’s across the country or the next state over) can introduce you to a whole new range of hobbies and activities. For me, I intentionally looked for a school that had mountains nearby because I knew that I liked hiking, even though the biggest “hike” I had ever done was maybe 500 feet (I was not prepared for a New Hampshire 4,000-footer). After a couple years in New England I unexpectedly picked up skiing again, something I hadn’t done in over a decade so I could experience “skiing the east” and I’ve fallen in love with it all over again.

Photo Of Snow Capped Mountain Through Windshield Sharafath Athimannil / Pexels

I feel like by going to school far away from home, I’ve learned a lot about life and myself like the very basics of adulting, how to branch out and meet new people as well as how to spend time with myself. I feel more confident stepping outside my comfort zone because I know I’ve already done it and some of the best things in my life are a direct result from that. I still get homesick on occasion and sometimes I feel like I would give an arm and a leg to cuddle with my dogs, but it makes the few trips home each year that much more special and I would not trade it for anything.