I always thought college would be so great. I heard people complain about the stress, how hard it is to eat healthy and never getting enough sleep. But I focused on meeting new people, moving to a new place and going to fun parties. My friends always posted pictures with new people at football games covered in their college’s team colors and a red solo cup in their hand.
Who wouldn’t want to live like that? College is the best four years of your life, right? It gives you time to express yourself, find out what you love and grow as a person.
But actually going to college was a different experience than I could ever imagine. I started at a Lehigh Carbon Community College in Pennsylvania before transferring to Temple University in Philadelphia. I felt so excited to leave my small town and move to the big city into my apartment. I’d lived at home my entire life. The city offered a lot of things my small town couldn’t: Chinese food at 1 a.m., art and culture, and new experiences. Temple was nestled in the middle of all of this excitement. Who wouldn’t want the best of both worlds?
My mom and I shopped for “adult” things at Target like plates, bowls, pots and pans, silverware and cups. I even bought a French press under the impression that I’d have the time and motivation to make fresh coffee every morning (boy was I wrong). It all felt like an exciting opportunity to experience life on my own for once. I could only think of my new life in a city filled with opportunity.
I showed up to my apartment the day on my move-in day and found out just how small it was. My clothes barely fit in my drawers, and my closet overflowed. It’s almost impossible to make eggs and coffee at the same time in the kitchenette. My roommate and I share the same room and kitchenette. I wasn’t used to living in a small space with someone.
I found that expectations at a four-year college were higher than at my community college. Lectures are boring and hard to pay attention to every day. The student newspaper is more competitive here. I may have been a promising 19-year-old at community college and in my hometown, but Philadelphia was showing me it was going to take a lot more commitment and time than I was used to giving.
Moving away from my friends proved to be really hard, too. I didn’t know anyone in the city. As a transfer student and a junior, I found it hard to meet people my age. I did have some friends in my classes, but it’s hard to go up to a random person and ask, “Hey where’s the party at?” So I spent a lot of nights FaceTiming my friends from home. The rest of the nights I spent eating cookies I took from the dining hall while watching America’s Next Top Model. I guess you could say I was pretty close to hitting rock bottom.
Coping with stress away from my mom and my dogs also made the move away from home really difficult. Simple things, like talking to my mom while she was cooking or going shopping together were what I missed most about home. My mom has been my rock for my entire life. Also, eating dining hall food gets old really fast compared to my mom’s homemade halupki (a Pennsylvania Dutch dish made with cabbage, pork and rice).
I missed the fresh air of my small town along, the hiking trails and my backyard. Living away from everyone and everything you knew for almost 20 years felt more difficult than I expected. All I could think about was returning home.
I finally got to go home and spend time with my friends, but realized I was romanticizing my hometown. Yes, I do miss the memories I have there and I miss the people, but being there wasn’t what I needed anymore. I’ve grown out of that environment and into a new one. The familiarity of my hometown made me long for it, but whenever I’m home I’m reminded of how boring it is. Dunkin Donuts is a popular hangout spot and my first date was at McDonalds. How basic and simple can you get? I don’t want to live a simple life anymore. I want excitement, opportunities and, frankly, hipster coffee shops.
Perhaps I won’t live the rest of my life in Philadelphia. I always thought the city was the place for me, but I’m sure I’ll grow out of that just as I grew out of the comfort of my hometown. I will always love where I grew up, as much as I wanted to leave. I’ll always love my college and the memories I’ll make here as hard as some of the times were. But growing as a person means growing out of the places you love.
You have to repot plants as they grow because they need more room to grow and people are the same. I will grow and move to new places but my roots will stay the same.