“If you’re from California, then why’d you choose to come to Maryland?”
If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me this question, I would almost be able to pay my pricey out-of-state tuition. When I’m asked this question, my response usually falls along the lines of “because the school is pretty,” or “I wanted a big school that was near a city,” or my personal favorite “because National Treasure Two: Book of Secrets was filmed on campus.” The thing is, I’m not entirely sure why I chose to attend the University of Maryland.
Compared to the majority of people, my college application process was somewhat untraditional. Throughout high school, my spring breaks, President’s weekends and Thanksgivings were dedicated to college tours.
My mom and I visited over 35 campuses, ranging from schools as close as 10 minutes away to universities across the country. I constantly added and subtracted schools to my list. I tended to go back and forth between wanting either a school with 30,000 students or a school with 8,000, a private Catholic school or a huge public school with Division 1 sports teams.
I applied to a whopping 18 schools during my hectic senior year, more than any of my friends. These schools couldn’t be more different and they covered a wide spectrum of student body sizes, campus atmospheres and cities.
After an application process that felt as if it spanned several decades, I chose to attend the University of Maryland. No one from my high school ever attended UMD, a school thousands of miles away from my home and a climate with an average temperature 20 degrees lower than what I’m used to.
Every person that I talked to tried to convince me that Maryland was going to be too cold, the lifestyles in the east are too different from the west and that I experience major homesickness. I put on a brave face when I heard their responses, but honestly, I felt scared out of my mind.
I was cold, confused and Californian.
I went into orientation with an open mind, determined to prove everyone who doubted my choice of college. I expected to make friends and finally feel convinced in my decision during orientation, but these anticipations fell flat.
I came back certain that I picked the wrong school because I would be too far from home and my “valley girl voice” would keep me from fitting into a crowd. Most importantly, though, I came back with a feeling that I wasn’t ready to leave my home and everything that I knew.
My pleas to persuade my parents to let me take a gap year, change my school or completely drop out of college fell on deaf ears. I was to go to Maryland, give it time and see how I felt after Christmas break.
When it came time to leave sunny Southern California, I expected the worst. Filled with self-doubt and fear, my gut said that I picked the wrong school. When it came time to say goodbye to my mom, I felt devastated, frightened and overwhelmed. I attempted to pull my best poker face, but I’m positive she knew how scared I truly was.
Four months, two rounds of midterms and countless memories later, I now realize that Maryland is my home. Although I still don’t have a great answer as to why I came here, I do know that UMD is the perfect school for me and I am exceptionally happy with my decision.
Just like any other college student, I have periods where I feel homesick and beg to come home. I suffer through weekends where all I want is to see my parents—and of course, I crave In-N-Out—but now I developed the knowledge necessary to cope with them.
At first, I was petrified to leave my home, my support system and my acclimation to 70 degree weather, but I came to the realization that coming to UMD acted as a huge step in my personal maturity and independence. I now understand that even though I go to school far away, my friends are always there to support me, my parents are just a phone call away and when it’s 40 degrees outside, a down coat will always keep me warm.