I will forever be a Jersey girl at heart. I walk fast, but talk faster. I like my bagels greasy and filled with Taylor ham, eggs and cheese. And, no, I do not pump my own gas. For the past four years my Friday nights were usually spent under the lights at high school football games, and Sunday mornings were for reminiscing on what drama occurred the 12 hours prior. But as most of my peers look to continue the next four years of their lives within a two hour radius of their homes and each other, I am looking for a completely different college experience.

When I finally made my decision to go to Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, I got a variety of responses. Besides the, “Oh my gosh! That’s where Zoey 101 was filmed!” and the, “How are you going to study when the beach is right there?" (see Google images to understand this comment), the most common response I got was, "Why are you going so far?"

Hearing those words obviously made me run around my room in circles, questioning my decision. But every time I thought about it, I always came back to the same answer: “Why not?”

College is supposed to be a time when one begins to figure out who they are, what they want and where they want to go. I have always thought of myself as an independent person, but that was with my parents a phone call or short drive away. Even though I sometimes felt like it, I have never been completely on my own. So, for me, going to school in a place where I am forced to really learn and develop my self-sufficiency is the best possible way to get the college experience I so desire.

Another thing that people have asked me about my move to the West Coast is, "Aren't you going to miss your home?" Of course I am. How could I not? Not being able to witness the first snow fall of the season and then cuddle up against the fireplace with my favorite blanket and a cup of hot cocoa while watching Home Alone is going to be tough; that is what I live for. But isn't missing home and adjusting to a new norm part of going to college? Who is to say that a kid going to school two hours away from home is not going to miss the same things that I will? I am going to miss having my friends and family so close to me. I am going to miss being close to the greatest city in the world. And, whether you believe this or not, I'm going to miss home. But the reason I say all these things and still believe that going to school across the country is the best option for me is because I do not look at this chapter in my life as a sign of forever. I look at it as four years. Four years of my life where I can figure out who I am and what I want. Will I come back? Will I stay out there? I'm not really sure. But what I do know is that I need to explore all options before I make that decision. 

Now, I would be lying to you if I said I was not the least bit scared. I am. Unlike my friends from high school, I cannot come home any weekend I please or take a road trip to see one another. My closest family member in California is six hours up the coast and I do not know anyone going to my school. People say that college is scary, but to me, isn’t that what makes it fun? I finally get the chance to enter a place where I barely know anything and don’t know anyone in the hopes that I will find myself. My Jersey spirit has been fused into my soul, and I know wherever I go, I will keep it in my back pocket. But now is the time that I take off the coat that has protected me for so long, and learn to embrace t-shirt weather, surfing in January and the rest of the privileges that this new chapter in my life bring upon me. 

Lead Image Credit: Madison Nichols