So, Like, Why Are You Here?

So, Like, Why Are You Here?

It's not easy feeling welcome as an out-of-state student, but not for the reasons you might think.

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Illinoians, your state is pretty cool. Stop selling yourself short! Chicago aside (that would be its own article -- ever since I visited the major cities of our country, I've preferred Chicago over NYC and LA), you're the Land of Lincoln, rich with history, and full of pretty tasty corn. But best of all, you've got some of the best universities in the Midwest, best in the nation in many categories.

So why are people so shocked when they hear I'm from California, and I chose to come here?

A little about me: I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. My mom was a local, my dad grew up in St. Louis and moved out west to go to Stanford for grad school. I adore my state (I'm getting a tattoo inspired by the flag soon!) so yeah, why *would* I leave? Why would I go to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign? Why didn't I just go to a school in California?

Well, for one, the top schools are pretty brutal to get into, and they tend to prioritize out-of-state and international students, often for financial reasons. Many universities do this, and that's fine! I think it's great to increase the diversity of campuses and unite people from many backgrounds. That said, it doesn't make things easy for Californian students. I was admitted to some excellent California schools, but not the ones I was truly hoping for.

Meanwhile, the magic I felt when I visited UIUC was always in the back of my head. Everyone was so welcoming despite it being such a large school, and I continually saw it on lists of underrated schools in the nation. The beliefs and values of the community were very similar to those that I loved most about my home. I was very impressed with the psychology department (my major). I remember when I ran outside of my physics class senior year, freaking out because I got the email, "You're an Illini!" My teacher even gave me the rest of class off to call my family and celebrate.

After this exciting experience back home, I had no idea that my classmates would be so shocked to hear I was from California.

The questions I'm always asked haunt me. "Why are you here? Isn't California so great? Don't you miss how sunny it is every day?" Rarely do people ask me why I chose this school, the way people from California do. I want to talk about how much I love UIUC and what brought me to this school and not have to explain that, no, the entire state of California is not sunny every single day, yes I have seen snow before, no I don't go to In-N-Out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I get it: people aren't setting out to make me feel unwelcome. They're just curious. But a lot of times, I leave that interaction feeling like I don't belong here. Meeting a fellow out-of-state student or an international student from a nation that is less represented at our school is a breath of fresh air. I feel like I've made an instant friend. We laugh about the kinds of questions we receive, and how uncomfortable it is to have to explain what should be fairly simple: we came here because we like the school, just like in-state students.

So, in-state students, I have one thing to ask if you want to help make your out-of-state and international classmates feel more welcome at your school. Next time you run into one of us, give us a chance to tell our stories. Try to refrain from making assumptions about our home state or country. Focus on our similarities rather than our differences. Recognize that the fact we chose to join your community is a compliment! We are here for the exact same reasons you are: to learn, make friends, and forge a path for the rest of our lives.

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Why Getting Away From Where You Grew Up Is Important

College is the perfect time to get away from home and go out into the real world.
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As you get older, life sometimes makes it hard for you to take control and go to the places you've only dreamed of. There's always a work meeting, ballet recital, or something to hold you back from taking that trip planned four summers ago. College is the perfect time to get away from home and go out into the real world.

It's important to get away from everything you know at one point in your life. There is a whole world full of risk, chance, and experience. The security you have in your hometown can be traded in for adventure and change. There's a time to try something new, learn something that blows your mind, or go somewhere that takes your breath away. That time is now, to feel like you are actually doing something worthwhile with your life.

It is important to get away from where you have grown up for some of your life. You need to grow on your own, without anyone there to tell you you're wrong or out of line being a certain way. The transition from high school to college is the gift of independence. You choose who you get to be without anyone holding your past against you. It's a do-over, a second chance after the mistakes and regrets you lived through in high school. Yet, being away from home has its drawbacks as you lose familiar faces, a steady schedule, and many creature comforts. But, all of these can be found in a new place with time. Leaving the place you grew up gives you another chance to grow again, without boundaries. Travel whenever you get an opportunity because it may not come again. Test your limits while living your actual dreams. Go out and explore the world—you're only here once and don't have time to take it for granted. Leaving everything you know sounds scary, but there are great memories to be made out there.

Whether this new place for you is two hours from home, or 20, it's different, it's exciting and it's change. It is important to get away from where you grew up and learn from the adventures you embark on. It is the best way to find yourself and who you want to be. It's what you'll remember when you look back on everything you've done.

Cover Image Credit: Madison Burns

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For Camille, With Love

To my godmother, my second mom, my rooted confidence, my support

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First grade, March. It was my first birthday without my mom. You through a huge party for me, a sleepover with friends from school. It included dress up games and making pizza and Disney trivia. You, along with help from my grandma, threw me the best birthday party a 7-year-old could possibly want.

During elementary school, I carpooled with you and a few of the neighborhood kids. I was always the last one to be dropped off, sometimes you would sneak a donut for me. Living next door to you was a blessing. You helped me with everything. In second grade, you helped me rehearse lines for history day so I could get extra credit. In 4th grade, you helped me build my California mission.

You and your sister came out to my 6th grade "graduation". You bought me balloons and made me feel as if moving onto middle school was the coolest thing in the entire world.

While you moved away from next door, you were a constant in my life. Going to Ruby's Diner for my birthday, seeing movies at the Irvine Spectrum and just hanging out, I saw you all the time. During these times, you told me about all of the silly things you did with my mom and dad, how my mom was your best friend. I couldn't have had a greater godmother.

In middle school, you pushed me to do my best and to enroll in honors. You helped me through puberty and the awkward stages of being a woman.

Every single time I saw you, it would light up my entire day, my week. You were more than my godmother, you were my second mom. You understood things that my grandma didn't.

When you married John, you included me in your wedding. I still have that picture of you, Jessica, Aaron and myself on my wall at college. I was so happy for you.

Freshmen year of high school, you told me to do my best. I did my best because of you. When my grandma passed away that year, your shoulder was the one I wanted to cry on.

You were there when I needed to escape home. You understood me when I thought no one would. You helped me learn to drive, letting me drive all the way from San Clemente to Orange.

When I was applying to colleges, you encouraged me to spread my wings and fly. You told me I should explore, get out of California. I wanted to study in London, you told me to do it. That's why, when I study abroad this Spring in London, I will do it for you.

When I had gotten into UWT, you told me to go there. I did and here I am, succeeding and living my best in Tacoma. I do it for you, because of you.

When I graduated high school and I was able to deliver a speech during our baccalaureate, you cheered me on. You recorded it for me, so I could show people who weren't able to make it to the ceremony. You were one of the few people able to come to my actual graduation. You helped me celebrate the accomplishments and awards from my hard work.

When your cancer came back, I was so worried. I was afraid for you, I was afraid of what I would do without the support you had always given me. When I was in Rome, I went to the Vatican and had gotten a Cross with a purple gem in the middle blessed by the Pope to help you with your treatments. It was something from me and a little bit of my mom in the necklace, the gem.

Now, sitting so far from you away at college just like you wanted me to. I miss you. I wish I was there to say goodbye.

I'll travel the world for you, write lots of stories and books for you, I will live life to the fullest for you.

You are another angel taken too early in life. Please say hello to my parents and grandma in Heaven for me.

Lots of love,

Haiden

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