The Importance of Going Away to College
Imagine the senior year of high school when students are poised to enter college and become adults. It's a time of responsibility, of being on one's own, and of shaping lives by making daily decisions. One of the major decisions is where to attend college. Should a person stay close to home and attend an in-state school where people and even campuses are somewhat familiar? Or should the decision be to start a completely new chapter in one's life by attending a college farther away, with totally new challenges? I believe the answer is definitely to leave town.
Of course, I can only speak from own experience to date. I thoroughly enjoyed high school and had excellent teachers who prepared me for entrance into the new world of college. My family and I discussed and received information from many schools, some of which I was totally unfamiliar with. My parents knew this was an important milestone in my life and therefore, arranged for a trip east to visit campuses and classes. That is how I chose to travel from my North Dakotan home to MIT, halfway across the nation. I had many reasons, one of which is obviously that MIT is one of the top schools in the nation, but another is that it is in the city of Boston. I am from Bismarck, North Dakota, a midwestern town of about 60,000 which I love, but I knew it was time for a new place with new experiences.
So far, I am only in my first semester of college, but I love it. I have met a whole new set of friends and find that things are always happening on campus and in the city. I was homesick for about the first week, but after that I never thought about being homesick again. I had too many interesting things to do. For the first time in my life, I could go and see a professional sports team play, see the Blue Man group, or just explore all the historic sites of Boston.
Over the Columbus Day break, I went home to Bismarck and realized that nothing had changed. Twenty of my friends met me at the airport and were excited to see me, as I was excited to see them. Through our few days together, I found out that they had remained friends with the same people from home and really hadn't met anyone new. They had not all stayed in Bismarck, but everyone I saw over the Columbus Day weekend was attending college in North Dakota.
They told me that they thought college was not really any different than high school. Not only were their classes based on most of the same materials, but also the people and surrounding reminded them of high school. They hung out with the same people and did the same things on weekends.
I asked if they regretted their choice of school, and almost all of them told me that they didn't until I told them how much I loved MIT and Boston and the new experiences I was having with people from all over the country and even the world. They wished that they could be going to school somewhere outside the Midwest.