As one of the top journalism schools in the country and located just few miles north of the nation’s capital, the University of Maryland, College Park offered me a unique opportunity that I couldn’t get anywhere else. But with that unique opportunity came a unique adjustment.
My family lives 4,107 miles away from my university.
When I applied to UMD, I lived in North Carolina with my mom, step-dad and four younger sisters. I went through my first year of college with my family only 330 miles away from me. But my second year got more complicated. My stepdad, a U.S. army member, found out that he would be stationed in Germany.
We were shocked. My sisters were devastated that they would have to leave their friends and begin high school in a new country. For them, these orders were the worst news they could have received.
I suddenly had to make a hard decision: go to Germany with my family and start school at a new university or stay in Maryland and finish college. A six-hour train ride to see my family and an eight-hour flight are a lot different, especially in terms of cost. How could I grow as an independent individual?
I decided to stay at UMD, even though I would miss my sisters and parents.
July 4 was a tough day. My sisters and I stood in an empty parking lot (the perfect spot for the mood) and tearfully said goodbye to each other. None of us knew when we would see each other again. We didn’t know if or when I could go to Germany to see them again due to financial restrictions and school. Knowing that I won’t be around my sisters every day, that I’ll miss getting ready for school every morning with them and late night movie marathons, made the moment that much harder.
A month and a half later, I moved into my new apartment at UMD and got ready to start my sophomore year. Seeing my friends again and meeting my new roommates made me excited. It helped me forget for a while that my family moved to another continent. I didn’t take long to settle in and soon enough me and my three roommates became best friends.
The absence of my siblings hits me hard sometimes. But overtime, I got used to it and quickly found friends that helped fill the void since my sisters left home. My friends provide me with a constant stream of love and support. We go into D.C. together, get coffee, binge on movie marathons and confide in one another. Suddenly, I could accept that my family was so far away because of these college experiences that I will cherish forever.
FaceTime makes the distance a little easier, too. The elementary school is close to my family’s house on the military base. My youngest sister told me that she even walks to school on her own sometimes. I love watching my sisters grow into independent people, especially the twins. Seeing them evolve into such unique individuals, how they make so many friends and find individuality is a sight to see.
“It’s time for you to get a boyfriend because you have to get married,” my six-year-old sister bossily informed me. I live for these tiny moments with them and cherish each conversation with them.
These new ways of communicating showed me how I tend to idealize our relationships with one another. Talking over FaceTime, when we truly want to communicate and catch up, takes a lot of bickering out of the equation. I’m sure my mother appreciates that. In the past, my mother and I didn’t get along very well. But now that she lives in another country, she’s become one of my main confidants in the family. I do call her a little earlier though, considering they live six hours ahead of me.
College is hard enough but with a person’s family so far away college can be even more difficult. With my family overseas, I miss them every minute of everyday. But I treasure them even more me. My mother and I are closer and I realize just how much they have shaped into the person I am today.
Without this move, our new strength wouldn’t be the same. And for that, I’m grateful.