Going to college is hard.
Everyone has a different experience. For some, it's an easy transition, and for others, it's one of the hardest things they've ever had to do. It requires a lot of change; most freshman are tasting freedom for the first time, finally independent from their parents and family life. You're totally in charge of your diet, even if you have an unlimited meal plan, and no one is going to remind you to do laundry (your roommate is going to want to when it starts to pile up, though. Fortunately, they'll help with a lot of hygiene habits if you aren't particularly good at cleaning your room, either).
Maybe they'll be a little more subtle than Ellen (no promises).
There are certainly a lot of challenges to living on your own, roommate or not, and there's one key factor that's going to add to your struggle: going to school far away from home.
If the drive is far away from home, you're probably going to have a couple extra hurdles and complications caused by the distance. Just to name a few:
Packing for college is already an issue. Your closet is going to shrink, and even when you already over-packed freshman year, it's still nearly impossible to make decisions about what you can and can't bring back. Even if you pack neatly and perfectly, you're going to forget something. It's a fact of life. When you live a long distance from your family, your mom or dad just can't drive it back up to you the next weekend, or the next time there's something happening on campus that they want to see. They have to ship it to you, you have to buy it, or you have to deal without. Good luck getting it all into the car and having to sit up straight the entire drive (because, yes, you had to pack that. And that. And this, too). Storage units are the way to go, even if you aren't living too far from your campus.
2. Leaving your pets.
After you've packed, it's time to get ready to leave your favorite furry (or feathered or scaled) friends. It's not easy. They most likely won't be able to visit you because a 10-hour-plus car ride is just not what they need. You can't text them when you want them, and you can't do anything but listen to them bark, purr, or squawk if you were to try and call them. It's going to be emotional, and you may cry (I did). They won't even understand that you're leaving, and that's what's hard. Knowing that your pet might be waiting for you at the door when you're gone is difficult, and so if you get a little teary wishing them goodbye and wondering what you're going to cuddle when you're sad, it's OK. Everyone deals with the pain of leaving behind pets going to school, but the distance just means you might have a little more time before you see them.
3. The drive/the flight.
It's so long. It fills you with dread to think about it if you drive, and if you're flying, there's the pre-airport and pre-airplane anxiety that accompanies getting up in the air. If you have to drive yourself, it's a long time to sit alone, thinking about how you just left your family until your next break and how you have to move in all by yourself. If you drive with your family, the goodbye is dragged out, and you may get really, really, really fed up with them during the drive. If you fly, you have to worry about how you're going to get all your stuff to school. Sure, a majority of it may be in a storage unit if you're not a freshman, but what about this suitcase of clothes? And this suitcase? Will they know how much stuff is shoved into your carry-on? Will you sit by someone highly unpleasant on the plane for the several hours that you have to be next to them? There are too may variables, and it takes a lot of time.
4. Not being able to visit your family on the weekends or when you're sick.
Most people get homesick at school. Even if you're a senior, you long for the days of lying on the couch at home and having Mom cook you your favorite meal, or really just having no school work to stress about (and no alarms to set). If you live a far distance from home, you can't just decide to make a quick trip home to visit them. They're a day trip away. An actual day trip. Like a "spend the whole day in the car driving to them before you get there" day trip (not one of those "drive an hour, spend the day there, drive back, and call it a day trip" day trips). When you're sick, your family can't come see you, and you can't go see them. If it's spring break of your freshman year and you have food poisoning and you're stuck on campus...all you can do is call them and cry. Trust me, it's just not the same, and you really don't want to try and Facetime when you just want to bury your head in tissues.
5. Not being able to have your family on campus for events, or being able to go home for family events.
When you live a while away, it's not easy for your parents to pack up and come visit for homecoming or family weekend. It's a lot more difficult if you have younger siblings at home, too; it involves intensive planning, a lot of travel decisions and, typically, a fair amount of money to stay in hotels and spend on gas or plane tickets. It means that your parents might not be able to make it to your gowning ceremony or one of your sports games, and if you're like me, your parents have been to almost all of those events in your life before college. Additionally, the struggle goes both ways because it's not going to be easy for you to get home for family events that you could've attended before. Your little sister's first homecoming? Smack in the middle of midterms, probably, and you can't get home, anyway. Maybe you'll make it home in time for prom or their piano recital, but it's dicey when you aren't living in the same house anymore.
6. Lifestyle change.
There's always an adjustment coming back and forth from college, for aforementioned reasons and more, but when you're traveling across the states (or even across countries, for you international students out there), the changes are even bigger. Forget drinking real sweet tea while you're at home; you're probably going to forget, order it in a restaurant, and then be utterly repulsed because it isn't tea like it is in the South. If you're changing climates, good luck getting used to the weather patterns; even if you've been living in the heat all your life, as soon as you come back from that cold Northern school, you're going to forget all about how you managed not to melt in the hot, humid weather of your hometown. Whether there's a difference in the urbanization of your school depends on if there's going to be some adjusting there, too. Remember how, at school, the lady at the Waffle House remembered your name because only university students really go there? It's not going to be the same at home, where there are about 10 Waffle Houses in a 10-mile radius. The distance creates even more adjustments that you have to make, and sometimes it involves some serious culture shock.
7. Going home and having very few friends from school.
Even if you've kept in touch with your friends from high school, you're going to have a pretty insurmountable distance between you and the friends you made at college. It's not like going to a local school where you have the chance of running into some friends from home or you can drive and meet up with them on weekends. Your school is hours and hours away, and often, your friends are from even further away, and the road trip distance is...more than you want to road trip. In some cases, there's no one that you've become friends with from university who lives around you, which means you have to either put a lot of effort and time into seeing them, or you have to deal with FaceTime or Skype until you can see them in person again.
These are just a few of the many struggles that come up when you go to school far away, often amplifying a lot of the challenges that other students already face. That's not to say it isn't worth it: I don't mind my own trip to Sewanee, a 10-hour drive if you time traffic well. After all, you chose your school for a reason, and as they say, love conquers all...even distance (and long car rides with your family).