When I say “move away from home,” I don’t mean move out of your parents’ house. I mean that you should move out of the city/state you consider home at least once in your life. As someone who was born in Alaska, lived in Oregon from age 7 to age 18, spent six years in Boston, and now have been living in North Carolina for two years, I know a little bit about moving away from home. I made my first solo move away from home so that I could attend school at Northeastern. I remember during the first few months during introductions and ice breakers I would always have people say “WOW! You’re a long way from home!” They were absolutely right, 3000 miles is a long way from home, and I would be lying if I said there weren’t days where I missed home like crazy. But the excitement of getting on the roller coaster that is college was enough to keep me distracted most of the time.
As you can probably imagine, Boston was VERY different than anything that I had ever experienced in Oregon. Growing up I lived in the suburbs and drove everywhere, so living in the city and using the T as my main form of transportation was one big piece. Another big difference, that took some getting used to, was the speed at which life happened. In Oregon, life moved slowly. People got things done but didn’t rush, they NEVER used their horns while driving unless there was imminent danger, and it seemed like there was always enough time for life outside of work and school. In Boston people were always in a rush, I won’t even go into the horn honking, and it felt like I was constantly running out of time. It was easy to get sucked into that lifestyle because there were so many things I wanted to do in addition to classes and co-op. There were so many amazing opportunities around me all the time, that I often chose them over sleep and downtime.
At times this new lifestyle was exhausting, and sometimes I would get on the orange line to Arnold Arboretum so I could lie on a blanket in the grass and pretend the world was moving a little more slowly. But this new lifestyle also taught me things about myself. I learned that I work well under pressure and that while I’m a procrastinator I somehow always manage to get things finished on time. I learned that although I loved my time in Boston, it wasn’t somewhere I could see myself living for the rest of my life. Even though Boston wasn’t the place for me, I never would have known what else was out there if I had played it safe and gone to school in Oregon. I would never have learned that while I have the ability to work hard and play hard all the time, I prefer a lifestyle with more downtime built in. I’m sure there are people who achieve a slower lifestyle in Boston, but it wasn’t something I ever figured out.
Maybe for some of you, Northeastern was a move away from home. If you fall into that category, I hope you’ve experienced some of the benefits that I did, and I encourage you to try somewhere new if your first big move wasn’t to the right place for you. For those of you who haven’t moved away from home yet, I encourage you to do so at some point before life gets too complicated to uproot. It doesn’t have to be forever because even just a few years can completely change your views of yourself and the world that you live in. And maybe the place you grew up is ultimately where you want to call home. I’m not in any way trying to advocate against that. But I’ve learned from experience that getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new is the best way to learn about who you are, and who you would like to be. Boston was my home for six years. It was a different home than the one I had known growing up, but it was home nonetheless. Now after two years in North Carolina, I have another home. This home is teaching me all sorts of lessons about myself and about life, and while I do miss being close to family, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t challenged myself by moving away from home.
Katie Stember is a Northeastern Alumni (Class of ’13) who was very involved with Husky Ambassadors as a student. She is currently a Ph.D. student in Biomedical Sciences at UNC Chapel Hill studying an autoimmune disease called ANCA Vasculitis. She’s a proud cat mom and in her free time does volunteer photography for a local animal shelter. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.