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MIT staff blogger Beatriz Valdez

Comfort and College by Beatriz Valdez

Scared of applying to colleges far from home? Then read this!

Take in the familiar sights, smells, and faces of your community. Can you bear to be without them? Can you imagine embarking on a journey in which an institution offers you glory, but at the cost of sacrificing seeing the familiar sights, taking in the familiar smells, and forgetting the familiar faces you have grown accustomed to? Most importantly, would your parents let you?

I began thinking about these questions after I met with some high school counselors who wanted to change parents’ perceptions about letting their kids go far from the roost for college. It is a valid issue; I have known many people who stifled their educational aspirations when parents refused to let them leave the state, let alone the city, for college. I have also known many students, for fear of leaving their community behind, who never applied to colleges more than 50 miles away from home; come to think of it, I was one of them.

Good ol’ highway 34; a long stretch of road that connects many of the sleepy and dusty rural towns in the northeast plains of Colorado. This road connected my hometown to my alma mater in only a matter of 45 minutes! It was this road that paved my comfortable life in college-never too far from home, so that if I ever did get homesick in my apartment, I could rush home and eat amazing Mexican food or hang out with my siblings. Life was good, but I was boxed in; I was coddled in this state, and my tunnel of vision was only focused on my immediate surroundings. My mind couldn’t wrap itself around issues happening in other parts of the world.

“Y, mijita…tu crees que te va gustar Boston? No te vas a sentir solita? Sabes cocinar???” My mom plagued me with these questions as I packed my suitcases to head to Boston for my graduate degree. I knew she was excited for me, but deep down, I knew she wished she could just tell me no. “Madre, voy a estar bien, okay? Mira, un año pasa rapidisimo. Estare aqui antes de que me empiezes a extrañar.” As I reassured my mother, I couldn’t help but feel pangs of sadness. I was so comfortable in my home state- nothing ever rattled me and I knew my way around. Why rock the boat?

Needless to say, I have been rattled, ruffled, and scared in Boston. I arrived as a wide-eyed Country bumpkin, being easily impressed with all the sights and sounds of the big city (Ooooh, you mean to tell me taxis aren’t just in movies??). I met people from many different backgrounds, and most importantly, I accomplished what I set out to do: earn my graduate degree…at the cost of sacrificing the familiar sights, smells, and faces of my community in the small, dusty town of Colorado, but also gaining new “familiarities”, if you will.

I stroll into my favorite coffee shop in Inman square-1369-and order the usual. The familiar smell of Vietnamese coffee wafts out of the Styrofoam cup. I drive down to my favorite mechanic in Watertown, “Hey honey, what can I do ya for?” I drive to my favorite sight in all of Cambridge: Memorial drive. As I drive to my apartment, I can’t help but feel at home; it’s become familiar and comfortable.

The point is: take a chance to forget the familiar sights, smells and faces of your community. Yes, they are comforting and familiar, but college is a chance to pave your own way and make your own comforts and your own familiarities.

18 responses to “Comfort and College”

  1. Moe says:

    As a prospective student from Algeria and currently living in Saudi Arabia, I can relate to your great post. The only difference is that Boston is 10 000 kilometers away from my home ! But I still want to make it smile

    Thank you.

  2. I says:

    I’m the total opposite. Ever since I remember I’ve wanted to go to university far away. I wanted to see new places, meet new people and lots of challenges. How far away from home it didn’t matter and it still doesn’t. I understand the sentiment though

  3. Jeffrey says:

    My parents are expats living in Hong Kong, and right now I live in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There’s no hometown, home city or even home country. It makes me both jealous and happy to see people who know they fit in somewhere. But here you are, at home in two places. I guess home can be somewhere you’ve been a long time, even if you didn’t start there. It’s still what I naively think of MIT as.

  4. Justice Mason says:

    I understand the feeling completely: my parents and I have been talking about the different issues with me moving out and living alone for 4-9 years. However, it seems that they have learned to cope with the idea of seeing me mainly during holidays; however, I feel almost constricted, because most of my classmates and friends, although having the credentials for MIT, refuse to apply or even attempt at any Ivy League university. I guess what I’m trying to say is: I feel as if I’m going into a new experience alone,and I’m kind of scared…

  5. a says:

    “small, dusty town” sounds quite familiar… and CO, too… ツ

  6. thelittlerhoboatthatcould says:

    No puedo esperar, ya quiero volar smile
    This is a great post :DD I’m super nervous about potentially leaving my (current) home state, but I guess it’s a part of life?

  7. ElmerFwudd says:

    Aaaah…the small dusty towns in Colorado.

    Rabbits and rattlesnakes and sagebrush *everywhere*.

  8. Beatriz Valdez says:

    Hey everyone! Thanks for your awesome input :D, I love seeing the comments.
    @Rahul-have you checked out our admissions page? Check it out here and look under the “Academics” section.


  9. Christel Prins says:

    I can so relate to this! last year i spend time in Arkansas as a foreign exchange student. Coming from the Netherlands, where you can do almost everything you want, where religions are only at the background this was a major change that changed me as a person, I’ve become so much more mature but I also realized that the flat lowlands of Holland aren’t as bad as they sometimes seem! (apart from the weather.. that is, and will always be awful) But now I’m back home and I must say I miss it!

  10. Vinay '18 says:

    Never really felt the difference between 200 km or 20,000 km. It’s all the same.

  11. abhishek says:

    My parents are living in Hong Kong, and right now I live in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There’s no hometown, home city or even home country. It makes me both jealous and happy to see people who know they fit in somewhere. But here you are, at home in two places. I guess home can be somewhere you’ve been a long time, even if you didn’t start there. It’s still what I naively think of MIT as.

  12. Rahul Shrestha says:

    Hello mam! I am planning to learn Computer Science and Enginnering. Do i need to have attended 1 year of biology???

  13. Rahul Shrestha says:

    Please let me know mam!! Thank you!!

  14. Abhlasha Kamboj says:

    Respected Mam Valdez,” Namastey”(It,s Hello in Hindi) ! A great n supporting post! I am excited about Boston becoz I missed it when I visited Chicago, Washington DC., New York and other cities in 2007 with my parents and one of my Papa’s friend in Boston invited us to visit him for two days. But we couldn’t make it due to shortage of time.. This year, when I came to know about MIT, I in no time made my mind to go for this. I was able to get through ” IIT” and AIEEE (India’s top ranking tech.tests ). But I decided to drop the idea of getting admission into any Indian College lest I should miss MyMit. I am confident but my Mom is a little worried about me because we speak very less English at home.

  15. jvl says:

    I get second thoughts sometimes. After all, I could go to a college that is at 10 minutes walking distance from my home, and it’s among best in this small piece of land that I like to call my country… But I just decided to go for it, and see what happens. It would kill me if I didn’t try.

  16. Gelare says:

    Familiar feelings smile
    I don’t let my feelings to stop me from acquiring my goals, though. I am applying from Iran. Thus, my situation is going to be a little worse comparing to yours!
    Still, I can’t wait to receive the admission result, because borders are meaningless. we got to lose something in order to get a better one.

    Good luck,

  17. ERICK PADILLA says:

    well thats something i never thought before but, always is hard to say hello new things but is more hard to say good bay to current things, and latinos like you and me know how hard but exciting at the same time is to leave everything behind and start something you dont certainly know how it is and you just jump into it.

  18. Kshitij says:

    Ma’am, I really appreciate the fact that you’re encouraging us to move out of our protected environments and experience the real world, but for an international student, it is a very difficult decision to make; a totally new culture, new kind of people, etc. So should we still view the situation as you look at it? Please help me out in this..