Remember the complete craziness of being a college-bound high school senior? The last-minute soul-searching as you try to figure out what you want to study, franticly making pros and cons lists, the deadening monotony of filling out application after application and the impending doom of leaving your family and friends for the first time?
Take that overload of emotion and add to it living on another continent. Your legs are tied, keeping you from swimming across the ocean to tour potential campuses and fall in love with the one at which you’ll spend the next four years.
Living my entire life at military bases overseas, I had the same share of college application anxiety as any other “state-sider” high school senior. Sitting at my desk on my computer, I barely knew what I wanted to study as application deadlines came nearer and struggled to write the generic “self-discovery” style essays every college required (500 words describing myself, and how someone has influenced me? Really?). My biggest concern in living overseas was that it prevented me from previewing schools–not to mention this would be my first time living in the United States.
Believe me, the “unknowns” and “what if’s” kept me up many nights.
Instead of the usual “college road trip” across America, I had to make my decision based on where I could get in-state tuition and state-funded scholarships through the attainment of a home of record in a specific state. North Carolina, my grandparents live there. That could be nice. Oh, or New England, where my dad’s relatives are sprinkled about. Thoughts kept bouncing off the walls of my brain uncontrollably; predicaments of what life would be like, with no experiences to back up my decision.
For Third Culture Kids (kids who’ve lived outside their parents’ cultures) the concept of home causes a lot of internal strife with self-identity. For myself, I hold an American passport but I live in Germany. So, there I was, attempting to establish a “home” of record in a new place just to go to college.
Yes, it’s only a word and a legality at that, but it’s a huge leap. I wasn’t just moving to a new town or state for school with my home still conveniently within reach, I was forging a new home in the country I was born to live in.
Self-identity crisis aside, I was still trying to decide the more material things such as what schools to apply to and realistically consider. With my best chances being in my parents’ birth states, I was left with two options: Vermont, where my dad was from and Florida, my mom’s home.
Not completely insane, I decided to pass on the small, ridiculously snowy Green Mountain state and opt to look at schools in the Sunshine state (realistically though, I chose Florida more for its larger selection of schools and the fact that more of my relatives lived there). Nonetheless, I still applied to some out-of-state colleges (like Boston University, my dream school), but I knew I was Florida bound.
Acceptance letters came in, and so did my next fiasco: narrowing my options to a single school. Will I like Florida’s perpetual summer weather? How do I survive hurricane season? What makes Florida State’s campus better than UF’s? OK, deep breath Lauren, I think to myself.
Both of my grandmothers, both parents and a number of other relatives having studied in the halls of Florida State University. Even my sister was currently attending the school. Deep down, I knew Florida State was where I wanted to go. Even though I applied to other schools in the state, I was destined to be a Seminole.
Once the initial panic attacks, hair-pulling and showers of official forms died down, things began to fall into place.
Nearing the end of my senior year, I was still a basket case, ready to run at the first mention of college. But hey, these were the worries of any kid about to graduate from high school. To be honest, there was a sense of comfort in knowing these fears are ones I’d have in common with my future fellow freshmen.
We’re all hoping the the stress will pay off in the end.