I grew up in a town of 1.5 square miles, where everyone knew everyone and their business. I graduated from a class of 70 from a high school of about 400 students in grades 9-12.
A school with teachers who, when calling roll-call, would say, "Oh, I had your parents when they were in high school!" I knew that when it came time to apply to schools, I knew that it was my chance to get as far away as possible from my childhood town.
I chose the College of Charleston for a few reasons. One is that they were one of the only schools on the East Coast to offer my major, Historic Preservation, as an Undergrad.
But most of all, I chose to move so far away to attend school because I wanted to start over and have a clean slate.
I was one of those few students who had an absolutely terrible senior year of high school.
Senior year was supposed to be a time for making memories and spending your last high school moments with your best friends, but instead, it made me the bullying target of the school and completely miserable.
Even though I had graduated Salutatorian, it left me in the worst mental state of my life, and the bullying didn't really stop until I was handed my diploma. If I hadn't absolutely fallen in love with CofC when I visited the summer of my sophomore year, the horrendous bullying would have been the final straw.
But while everyone was applying or receiving acceptance letters to, frankly, the same 10 schools that the majority of the students at my high school went to, I was sending applications to schools as far away as possible: College of Charleston, Emory, William and Mary and the University of Georgia.
Even though I was one of the only students branching out from that small town or even the state, expanding my horizons only added fuel to the fire.
My bullies said that I was running away from my problems, my parents were following me down south because I couldn't "function without them," even though I live almost six hours away from them now instead of 14, and that I wouldn't make it so far away from home and be as successful as I was in high school.
But here they were, going to schools, that everyone went to, with the same people, only 30 minutes to an hour away from our hometown. A few went four hours away from home, but they were still in-state.
So, when I moved into my dorm room freshman year, knowing absolutely no one in a city I had only vacationed to, I was terrified.
Though I had been so sure of myself when I accepted, I was beginning to have some doubts. It took me a while to warm up to people and make new friends. It, of course, took a lot of adjusting to not having my parents around all of the time and going to a school that was a lot larger than my high school.
It was strange not talking to friends I had in high school because I wasn't seeing them 5 times a week, and I ultimately learned that "I'll miss you so much when you move, but I promise we will keep in touch," is only a formality, and the only way they will "keep in touch" is by viewing your Snapchat story.
If I hadn't burnt a bridge with someone before I moved down south before the summer was over, that bridge ended up collapsing on its own.
It was like a challenge to myself to make it through my freshman year.
I had successfully made new, amazing friends, joined enough clubs to have the social life I didn't have in high school and balance that new social life with my studies, and finish my freshman year with a 4.0.
It was like a big "Ha Ha!" to my bullies, but most of all, it proved all of the things they said about me wrong. It had also started to build up my confidence that had been destroyed in my senior year.
Even though I am 700 miles away from all of my family and the very few friends I actually do miss and keep in touch with, I look back and can't fathom staying in that small town or going to a school in-state.
Yes, there were more great people in that town than bad, but it was overall a toxic place.
A black hole that very few could escape and avoid being sucked back in.
It's sad to see some of the people that I graduated with only 2 years ago and know that they will most likely stay in that small town for the rest of their lives.
So, when I went back to my high school after I finished my freshman year, I talked to my favorite teacher's Junior class.
I talked to them about college and what it was like, gave them advice on picking a major and tips on how to transition from a small high school to a big college.
But I also encouraged them to consider applying and attending schools that were out-of-state. I encouraged them to expand their horizons and see the world beyond 1.5 sq. miles.