I was one of the lucky few who had known for years where they wanted to go to college. As most of my high school peers were scrambling to find that perfect fit, I just sat back and thanked my lucky stars that I did not have to go through that stress.

Since I was a sophomore, I knew exactly where I wanted to spend my collegiate years: Louisiana State University. The catch? It was over 1,000 miles away from my home in upstate New York (a whopping 1,156 miles to be exact). I can’t tell you exactly why I fell in love with a school so far from home. All I can say is that as soon as I laid my eyes on that beautiful campus filled with stately oaks and broad magnolias (cue the Alma Mater playing over the bell tower... every 15 minutes), I could not get it out of my head until finally I applied as a senior and got accepted.

Now, looking back after my freshman year, I can see that it was one of the best decisions that I could have made for myself. I have got to experience so many new things after just one year, but there have also been some important lessons to learn.

Here are three big lessons that packing up and moving across the country taught me.

1. It is incredibly hard to pack up 18 years of your life into suitcases that can fit on a plane.

Luckily, my family decided that we were going to fly down to move me in and not take a 19-hour road trip (been there, done that, hopefully never doing it again). The drawback to this was that I had to somehow condense my life into three suitcases. As fate would have it, I have family down in Louisiana and we were able to order and ship most of the dorm supplies that I would need. All that I was really responsible for were my clothes and pictures and any other small things from my room at home.

As it turns out, I have a lot of clothes. And I mean A LOT. Packing everything up without exceeding the carry-on and checked baggage weight limits is a difficult task that is definitely going to take me until I graduate to master.

2. Going home is a challenge, and I can’t make a surprise visit home for laundry or a “mom” hug.

Unlike my brother who stayed within a two-hour radius, I did not have the luxury of stopping home for a quick visit or an escape from the stress of college. I had to learn how to actually do my own laundry (without turning everything pink). I also learned how to adjust to being so far away and cope with the fact that I couldn’t go home as much as my high school friends could.

Plane tickets are expensive! Luckily for me, I made friends with some other out-of-staters who were in the same boat as me. Together we’ve made the best of life in Baton Rouge, even on the weekends when there weren’t any football games. I’d say that we have definitely had some fun, which brings me to lesson number three...

3. There is a whole world outside of Rochester, New York.

Just during my first year, I have already made my first trek through Texas, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. Living in the south has exposed me to so many new places and adventures that I probably would not have experienced if I had stayed home. The south is a totally different culture. My eyes have now been opened to sweet tea, Raising Cane’s, temperatures above 90 degrees, and of course, Mardi Gras! “Y’all” is now a part of my daily vocabulary, as much as my family wishes it wasn’t, and although I'll never admit it, crawfish doesn't actually taste that bad.

As you could imagine, there are way more than 3 things that I have learned by being so far from home and adjusting to a new lifestyle. However, all of the good things about this experience FAR outweigh the drawbacks. This change has been so incredibly worth it, and I would not trade this new life that I have found for the world. So, if you’re waiting for a sign to take that leap and pack up and move clear across the country for 4 years of totally eye-opening and beautiful change, here it is!