The Ups and Downs of Being an Out of State Student

Deciding on a college is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your lifetime. Like everyone, you want to find the best match for you. Considering options beyond your home state not only widens your net but ultimately gives you a better chance of finding your “perfect fit”. Being from the midwest, I often get asked why I chose to go all the way to New York. While there are plenty of ups and downs that come with being an out of state college student, in the end I found choosing RIT (over 1,000 miles away from home) was the best decision I could have ever made. Here are some of the best parts:

1. Always Having a Conversation Starter

Being from out of state is a great ice breaker, especially during that first week of college orientation. People are also more likely to remember you because you’re actually from somewhere other than New York. Even though you might get tired of people saying, “wow, why did you choose to go so far from home” after being asked where you are from, it never fails to be an interesting first date conversation starter. Being from the midwest inspired many of my friends from CT and NY at RIT to want to travel west. When traveling home for break or meeting people on campus, you will find people you didn’t know from your home state who just happened to choose the same school, too!

Kim (front, second from left) with a group of friends.

2. New Traditions, Norms, and Lingo

Environments, events, and lingo that might seem normal to you may be utterly foreign to someone else. This leads to various spirited discussions about the pronunciation of “hammock” or the existence of different regional accents. You bring new knowledge to the table and other people will be intrigued by that. Being in a new state also allows you to get out of your comfort zone and learn the culture and beauty of a new place.

3. New Foods and Stores

Speaking of new norms and traditions, before coming to Rochester I had never stepped foot in a Wegmans. I also had never heard of a garbage plate, calzone, or experienced eating at Naantastic (which is amazing). It was so cool to compare and contrast the stores I had at home versus this new region. My friends at RIT from Rochester got to take me to all the best places they loved and I was able to tell them about all the things they didn’t have like Canes, hot dishes, and Shake Shack. Even when I went home, I got to talk to my high school friends about all the differences. I promise, all of your new experiences and knowledge will be really interesting to others.

4. Expanding Your Network

Instead of meeting more people from one place, you will meet so many new people from many different parts of the country and world. You’ll also make friends who come from many different backgrounds. Knowing people from all around the United States and the world exposes you to different perspectives and personalities. College is all about building relationships socially, professionally, and romantically. Who knows, maybe the love of your life is out of state! Jokes aside, your connections (and Snap map) will be significantly expanded.

Snapchat social media map of the united states and Canada.

5. The Independence and Freedom

In my opinion, this benefit is the most life-changing. Not only do you get to choose when, where, how, and what to eat, but you also have this newfound sense of independence. Being so far away from home, my parents no longer bugged me about where I was going, when I was coming back and who I was going with. I also got to fly a lot by myself to travel home for breaks which I love doing.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the best parts of being an out of state students, let's look at some of the challenges you might face:

1. Potentially Feeling Homesick

You might feel alone at first being so physically far away from those closest to you. There are times I longed for the comfortable stability that home offered. Luckily, technology exists and is a great way to keep up with everyone and still feel a part of family events (I enjoy talking to my dog on the phone). Keep in mind that home is the people you surround yourself with when it comes down to it. It may take time to settle in, but eventually, you will find the same sense of peace in the atmosphere you call your new home.

Kim and friends ice skating at an indoor ice rink.

2. FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

This can happen two ways: Fear of missing out with your friends/family back home or fear of missing out on any and every event at your out of state college because you’re new. Leaving behind family and friends back home will be challenging, but when you come home to visit it’ll be that much more meaningful and you’ll have a lot to catch up on. Vice versa, being the new person when others might know each other from high school can make you feel like you need to be there for every hangout. But, keep in mind everyone else also feels new, and saying no to “studying” with the entire friend group when you need to really focus is okay.

3. Packing and Condensing Your Belongings

This is only a challenge if you happen to have way too much stuff like me. It is also dependent on if you are driving or flying. It was hard for me to pick and choose which clothes and shoes to bring. I knew I had to leave behind things like my favorite desk chair, several pairs of shoes, and the random kitchen appliances I thought I needed. Being an out of state student made me realize that I tended to overpack and allowed me to condense my wardrobe into necessities.

4. Out of State Tuition...You Would Think

I know this is a common reason students don’t go out of state, especially for public schools so I've added it as a challenge. However, for me, with financial aid and scholarships going to RIT turned out to be less per semester than going to my home state’s public university! This won't be the case for every out of state student, but since RIT is a private university dedicated to working with students in various financial situations, don't let it discourage you.

5. The Independence and Freedom

This is both a good thing and a new challenge. Being independent seems all fun and games until you need to take out your trash, do the dishes, or cleaning in general. You no longer have your parents footsteps away to rely on to either do your laundry or remind you to change the bedsheets. Managing school work, social life, sleep, in addition to these new responsibilities is a transition. However, it’s necessary to have that newfound sense of independence and be truly on your own.

With these challenges, it’s important to note that moving to a different state does not make you a different person. Rather, it expands on the person you already are. You are bound to feel excitement and nervousness at the thought of picking up everything you own and moving to a place where many are strangers. For me, choosing to go out of state was worth experiencing all of the ups and downs, and ultimately gave me another city on earth to call home.

About the author

Third-Year Student
Human-Centered Computing

I’m the type of person who likes bringing clarity to chaos, eating lots of sweets as well as doing literally anything outdoors.