For eighteen straight years, I lived in the same Boston suburb. I never once change my address. Never even changed my phone number. Before college, the closest I’d ever come to moving was trading bedrooms with my parents in the third grade. If you’ve ever moved, you know that it’s a substantial process, and for those of us who have never done it before, pretty terrifying. Don’t get me wrong: I had a pretty cosmopolitan upbringing, living where I did. Boston is a hustle-and-bustle type of city, and my parents took me on plenty of vacations. But there’s a discernible difference between hearing about and visiting other parts of the world and actually living in them. This was something I had to learn the hard way here at The University of South Carolina (which, for perspective’s sake, is approximately 942 miles from sweet home Massachusetts). So, I decided I should give you a few tips that I wish I’d gotten before moving so far away.
1) “This is going to cost you a lot of money.”
Despite my membership in this fine academic society, there are times when I seriously question my intelligence. For instance: the time I realized, hey! Plane tickets cost money! Lots of it! Both ways!
Now, luckily for me, I hail from Boston, and finding service from Logan International Airport is a breeze. However easy it may be to find service back to Columbia, South Carolina, it certainly isn’t inexpensive. On average, a flight from Boston to Columbia is about three hundred dollars both ways (!!!). Multiply that by Fall Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Break and summer. Then add to that tuition, fees and books, then factor in the money I ask my father weekly to stock up on popchips, orange juice, and lipgloss, and the subtotal quickly racks up to way too much money.
Like everything else in life, there are places here and there where you can pinch a penny or two and save yourself a hearty hunk of cash in the long run. For instance, instead of flying into my city’s itty bitty airport, I take a shuttle to and from the international airport two hours north of campus. For those among you who aren’t quite as far from home as I am, it might be better to take the nearest bus out of town. Heck, if you’re only a few hours from home, ask around: for all you know, Peter from Physics might also be from Pleasantville,USA, and may be willing to drive you home (as long as you split the gas money, of course).
BOTTOM LINE: It isn’t impossible. There are just extra steps you have to take in order to make it happen. And make sure to keep in mind that if you decide to study fashion in Paris, you’re going to be contributing a lot of money to the Air France fund.
2) “They will find things about you that are different.”
Every single time. No matter what. Then they will make fun of you for it. Whether it be the way you say pizza or who you supported in the 2008 presidential election or the kind of clothes you wear, if you’re moving across the country, there is going to be something about you that screams I ain’t from ‘round these parts. If you’re like I was, and you believe that you are the archetype of a normal American citizen, you’re wrong. Their version of normal is different than your version of normal. That being said, moving to a place where you are the cultural minority is a valuable experience to have. Living in the same area your entire life will only give you one perspective on the rest of the world, and while television and books can offer you an idea of what it might be like to go someplace else, it just isn’t the same.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s worth it. Worst case scenario: you move, end up hating it, but are able gain knowledge from it that betters you.
3) “You won’t eat another plain filet of fish until you come back home. Also, say goodbye to Dunkin’ Donuts.”
You will either learn to love their food or you will live off of dry cereal and Campbell’s for four years. Yeah, sure, there are places you’ll find, on campus or not, where you get something similar to what mom makes back home. But your options are going to be limited. Some things will remain the same–all ice cream is basically identical, and a bagel is a bagel. But be prepared for the closest location of your favorite chain restaurant to be six states away. Don’t worry, though. I guarantee you that there will be foods you like eating. I was introduced to the magic that is biscuits and gravy while in South Carolina and am a better person for it. In fact, all the while I’m at home, I crave it. So, in the end, it balances itself out. You’ll lose your favorite burger joint, but you may learn to love seaweed-wrapped eelskin puffs. Never say never.
BOTTOM LINE: Be prepared to hate the Chinese food. Just take my word for it.
4) “Buy rain boots.”
Or snow pants. Or lotion with SPF in it. If you go far enough away from home, the weather will change, and you will need to adapt. No exceptions. Unless you want to suffer, or are Bear Grylls and can make your own snowshoes from old tennis rackets and a pair of converse you never wear anymore. In that case, don’t even worry about it.
BOTTOM LINE: Target will thank you for the $300 you spend on new clothing at the beginning of freshman year. Who knew they sold balaclavas?
5) “Keep your mouth shut, but don’t do the same with your mind.”
Yeah, yeah, I know. We’ve been taught since kindergarten the importance sticking up for ourselves, not letting others bring us down, all those good self-empowerment key terms. And, obviously, there’s merit to that, since there are no upsides to being spineless. However, there are some instances in which it’s best to, for lack of a better term, keep your mouth shut. So you’ve moved to a place where, for these people, hunting season is better than Christmas, and you’ve been a member of PETA since middle school. That’s tough, and I don’t envy your position. Your discomfort, however, doesn’t mean you have to jump down the throat of every single person who even mentions duck season. Sure, tell your roommate. Complain to your best friend on a daily basis about how much you hate it. Be upset all you want, because you have every right to be upset. But alienating yourself because of your beliefs isn’t going to help. More often than not, no one will care whether or not you’re down to catch deer with them on weekends. And you shouldn’t care what they do without you around. Don’t be so quick to pin them as immoral, either–if you keep your mind open to the opinions and beliefs of those around you, you’d be surprised how quickly someone will be able to change your mind.
BOTTOM LINE: Do your research. If you don’t think you can handle living in a place where the culture is too different, don’t. But if you can deal, give it a shot. There’s a lot to be said for going to places that are unfamiliar to you. For all you know, it might end up being just where you belonged.
Emily Anderson is in her sophomore year at the University of South Carolina, where she studies English and is a member of NSCS. Although writing is her true passion, she spends her downtime blogging, running, baking cupcakes, and missing her family back home in Massachusetts. Especially her cat.