College is often as terrifying as it is exciting. You’re faced with so much new all at once—-new room, new teachers, new friends, new responsibilities. And if you’re an out-of-state student, you have a whole new state to get used to as your adopted home.
For those of you who choose to venture beyond your home state’s borders, I applaud you, adventurous soul! But be warned, here there be dragons.
Err, I mean here are a few things you should be prepared to run into:
An Unfamiliar Climate & Territory
As a Florida girl barely surviving her first fall (Wait, leaves actually turn colors other than green and brown? That’s not just a movies thing?) and bracing herself for her first snowfall, I strongly encourage you to check the annual weather reports for your new home state before packing your bags for move-in. If you know someone from your new state, ask them what kinds of clothes they wear each season too.
You might find that you can expect about the same temperatures and rainfall as you grew up with, in which case you have little to worry about! But you don’t want to show up with just a bag full of shorts, tank-tops and flip-flops only to be freezing your toes off by the first week of October. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience here.
Also try to get a sense of the human environment early on or even before move-in. If you’re moving between urban and rural areas or along the north-south axis, it could be a bit of a culture shock. Get to know locals as soon as you can so you can get a sense of whether “y’all” or “you guys” or “peeps” is more appropriate to address your new “squad”.
Physical environment is also important to take into consideration. For instance, Florida is flat as a pancake. Virginia, on the other hand, my new state, is hilly enough to make the “freshman fifteen” a negative number. Had I known this in advance, I would have bought much better shoes for walking to class/hill climbing in.
Misconceptions About Your Home State
Actual conversation I had at orientation:
Guy, most likely in-state: “So, where are you from?”
Me, naïvely enthusiastic: “Florida!”
Guy, most definitely in-state: “Oh cool! So you wrestle with alligators right?”
Sadly, this was not the last time I was asked this question. While this and the many other somewhat misinformed comments I’ve been subjected to have been mostly made in jest, very few people picture anything besides palm trees, alligators, and old people when I say I’m from Florida. Be prepared to be bombarded with a lot of stereotypes about your home state and to deal with them accordingly.
When asked about alligator wrestling, I now inform people that I was on the varsity team.
Misconceptions About Your New State
Miscommunication between states flows both ways. You’re likely not to know much more about your new state than the stereotypes people in your home state associate with it either.
Luckily, this is easily remedied. Start the semester with an open mind and welcome your preconceived notions to be challenged. Get to know the locals and get the real scoop on your new home. Assume nothing and expect the unexpected.
Camaraderie With Your Fellow Out-of-Staters
An interesting phenomenon occurs in college whereby people from opposite sides of the country bond through the simple fact that both are desperately lost in their new home state. Some of my best friends in Virginia are from places as distant from Florida as California and New York, initially because we recognized that same deer-in-the headlights expression when asked what part of Virginia we’re from.
This camaraderie is strengthened over short breaks, during which in-staters can simply drive home, while out-of-staters and international students are left the temporary kings and queens on campus. Take comfort as a member of a population of similarly displaced students, but remember to make local friends as well to help you ease the transition into your new home.
By the end of your college experience, and hopefully sooner, you want to feel as comfortable in your new state as your old state. You know you’re winning the out-of-state game when you say you’re going home whether you’re flying to campus or away from it.