Throughout the college application process, I felt pressured to attend school somewhere far away from my home in southeastern Massachusetts. Everyone said college was supposed to be about new experiences and newfound independence, which almost always meant leaving the nest and living a plane ride away. So come senior year, I applied to universities in New York and Washington D.C. because I wanted to prove to myself I could break out of my hometown bubble and do something new with my life.
Yet I ended up in Boston, just 45 minutes from my home. And that’s okay. I realized that if I am happy at school, it shouldn’t matter how near or far I am from my hometown.
College can be draining. Between the stress of exams, the expectations of dorm life, and the mediocrity of dining hall food, sometimes all you need is a home-cooked meal and a good night’s sleep in your own bed to recharge.
Choosing to travel across the country or even the world to go to college is a completely valid decision. But I’ve learned that my decision to stay somewhat local—in, might I add, one of the best college cities in the U.S.—does not make me immature or overly dependent. The distance between one’s home and their college does not inherently equate to maturity or independence.
I have always been close to my family. While some might dread a Friday night in with their parents, I would look forward to watching “Law and Order: SVU” or “This Is Us” with mine—no shame. And while some constantly bicker with their siblings, my sister is my lifelong best friend. Though those who are close with their families may still decide to travel far, I knew that was not for me. So when it came time to choose a college, I quickly realized I wanted to be near home.
I’m lucky I’m able to see my parents when I want to, because many students can’t. No matter how independent I may become, I will always value family time. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized spending time with your family doesn’t make you lame because at the end of the day, they’re the ones who are there for you.
Being close to home gives me the ability to return when I want without the limitations of school work and financial reasons. I can go home on long weekends and holidays and not have to worry about making a long or expensive trek back to Boston. And whether I’m at a college 45 minutes away or 4 hours away, I will still meet new people, explore a new place, and become involved on campus. Only now, I have the chance to go home more than others may be able to.
At the same time, I can still explore all that Boston has to offer. In fact, my prior experience with the city has made it even more exciting to explore. Instead of going to the popular tourist spots I have already been to, I can now discover new, lesser-known places. A night that would otherwise be spent at Regina Pizzeria, Faneuil Hall, or the Freedom Trail is open for a coffee run at Pavement or whichever new café I decide to try.
Looking back on it, I don’t know why I felt inferior to my peers who moved out of state for school. During orientation week, I felt a little embarrassed at times to tell people my house was so close to campus, even though I shouldn’t have. I was and still am allowed to miss my home and my family. Because even if I am close to home, they still aren’t physically with me.
The transition to college as a first-year is difficult for nearly anyone. The World Health Organization found that 35 percent of first-year college students reported having a mental health disorder. Major depressive disorder was found to be the most common. I too have experienced drastic changes in my mental health since moving here. And seeing my family makes me think, even for a moment, that everything is going to be okay. It provides a little normalcy in my life. I’m grateful for small moments like those, as they boost my mental health in times of need.
It’s true that going home every weekend can spiral into becoming overly dependent on your parents and missing out on the college experience. But spending a long weekend or two at home is nothing to feel embarrassed about.
Even though I want to experience new things at college, I still want to celebrate my family’s birthdays, come home when I’m sick, and go to my favorite hometown restaurants when I’m craving it. Going home for two days in one month is hardly missing out on what college has to offer, as there will be more parties and opportunities every other weekend.
I’m unsure where I’ll end up after graduating college. Being on a journalism track, I could end up in a major city like D.C. or New York, which wouldn’t allow me to return home at my convenience. So for the time being, I’ll take advantage of being close to my family—especially so I can skip out on the dining hall.