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Dear Dr. Syl,
Did you go to a college out of state? If so, how was it being away from your family?
—From College Out of State
Dear College Out of State,
I personally did not attend college out of state, however, the Founder of EducatedLatina.com, Ariana Allen, did! I asked her a few questions to help us understand how she made that decision, what challenges she had being away from her family and how she feels about the choice she made today.
In the Summer of ‘03, while visiting my dad in Los Angeles for the Summer, an amazing opportunity fell into my lap. The idea of moving to LA popped into my head briefly but I dismissed it, that is until I returned home to New York.
At the start of my Senior year of high school, my guidance counselor was already prepping the Senior class for college applications. The pressure to decide where to go to college was growing.
I’ll be honest, the decision to uproot my life, leave my family, friends, and city was agonizing. I loved everything about my life at 18. I had a great family life, amazing friends and I loved my city. I wanted to be an adult in NYC and experience the things I couldn’t as a teenager. When I thought about it, there was really no reason for me to leave other than taking advantage of this amazing opportunity. Do I leave everyone I love and everything I know for this opportunity? Would it be worth it? Am I making a mistake? These were the questions I obsessed about for 3 months straight.
Until one day, my sister had had enough of my agonizing. She and I were on the F train headed to school, I was again, going on and on about my dilemma then suddenly, mid-agonizing, she interrupted me and said, ‘Ariana, if it doesn’t work out, you can always come back home!’
At first, I was taken aback, but I instantly felt the burden lift from my shoulders. That’s right! I can always come back home. Duh! What did I really have to lose? If anything, wouldn’t I grow and learn from my experiences? So with that, I applied to Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles in December of ‘03, received my acceptance letter in late January ‘04, and in the Summer packed my bags and moved to LA to begin my college journey.
My first semester on campus I was great! I was living in the dorms, joining clubs, making new friends, and adjusting to my classes and workload so I didn’t really have time to stop and think. However, the start of my 2nd semester of my first year was the toughest.
I arrived back on campus after spending Christmas break with my family in NY. Suddenly, it was like a switch went off and I felt completely homesick. The novelty of being a New Yorker in Los Angeles was wearing off and wearing me down. I felt very lonely and wanted someone to just understand me without having to explain my identity. I stopped eating the cafeteria food and missed my mom’s homemade cooking, access to basic Dominican food, hearing merengue blaring from a car driving by, and the sites, smells and sounds of NYC.
I worked through that by creating my own little Dominirican environment around me. I listened to lots of merengue, salsa, and bachata, rocked my flags, and sought out any other Caribbean people I could meet.
I’ve been through some tough times in college, but my mother was always there for me 3,000 miles away. We spoke several times a week and she would always answer the phone, listen to my stories, vent my frustrations or celebrate my accomplishments. I was so grateful for my mother’s encouragement and support through my college journey and to this day.
I stayed in LA after graduating, married my “amazing opportunity ;)” and I continue with the traditions, the cooking, and the culture as best I can. I also thank God for video calling, which makes being away from my family and friends so much easier. I’ve sung happy birthday many times and have watched my nieces and nephews grow up.
When I reflect on my choice to move away from home my first thought is always, Damn! I can’t believe I made such a huge decision so young. After that, I usually acknowledge how much I have grown during college. I also think about what my younger self imagined my future would look like and it’s nothing like what I had imagined, it’s better.
If you are currently a senior in high school or planning to transfer from a community college to university, the experiences that Ariana Allen and others like her have had can help you make your final decision.