As I write this sitting in my mom’s home in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, I am completely ready to be back at school after being here since March.
I like being back at home. It’s nice to spend time with my family and to see my old friends. And while I acknowledge this is definitely a very privileged problem to be having at a time like this — since I have a stable, healthy, and loving family — I feel completely stifled being stuck in my hometown again.
I spent a lot of my time in high school being excited to move and go to college. I resonated with the teen angst about living in a suburb from movies like “Lady Bird,” where the title character yearns to be in an east coast city for college instead of staying in Sacramento, California.
Though I had no idea where I wanted to go to college until about April of my senior year, all I knew was that I didn’t want to stay in Pittsburgh or any surrounding area.
But, I don’t think I realized the complete benefits of leaving my hometown until close to the end of my freshman year at Penn State.
I know people have different goals and visions of what they want their futures to look like. Not everyone wants to continuously travel or move around like I do. But, I think anyone who has the ability to leave their hometown — even temporarily if they’d prefer to stay there — absolutely needs to.
Coming to college and leaving my hometown has provided me the opportunity for self discovery, intellectual growth and many beneficial experiences.
Moving — especially for the first time at 18 years old — is absolutely difficult. I can speak for at least myself and my friends when I say we were definitely homesick at Penn State at the beginning of freshman year. Suddenly not being familiar with not only your physical surroundings, but also literally all of the people is such a great learning experience.
But, I think this initial homesickness, and essential culture shock, helped build me the confidence to do all of the things I’ve wanted to do since I was younger, like moving to a bigger city and traveling frequently.
I love State College, but I’m definitely pretty unlikely to stay after I graduate. I can’t wait to hopefully experience even more growth as I move again.
The world is obviously so huge and filled with a wide variety of experiences and stories. Staying in your small, extremely non-diverse hometown creates a self-centeredness in many people that can only be destroyed through leaving.
I’m not saying leaving has made me an enlightened, selfless person who is never wrapped up in any pointless drama. We’re still human.
But, I still come home for holidays and hear people I used to be friends with who have not really left our hometown talk about their personal, privileged problems. I just hope they eventually decide to leave to take themselves out of this “bubble,” realize their privilege and work to let go of their egos.
I’ve learned one of the best ways to learn is to listen to others. Yes, I’m paying for classes at Penn State. But I feel like I’m getting free education everyday by talking to so many people who have had different experiences than I have had. These conversations have motivated me to seek out so much information about this country and to hear more perspectives and essentially educate myself about the white privilege I’ve had my entire life.
Moreover, I simply can’t understand how people would want to stay in the same place with the same people their entire lives. We’re definitely habitual by nature — but breaking these habits and escaping one's comfort zone comes with not only so many internal and intellectual benefits, but also the ability to see something new! Traveling and meeting people are two of my favorite things, and I think some of the best parts of being a person.
Leaving can definitely be difficult. But, if Lady Bird can work up the courage to move across the country, you probably can too.