I am from a small farming town in Texas, where it can snow and be 80 degrees all in the same day. My high school class had 72 students, with 70 of my classmates staying within 3 hours of home after graduation. I am the only student from my class to leave Texas. I yearned for something more than my small hometown could offer. Which is one of the main reasons I chose Arcadia. It offered me the chance to see the world.
Since I was about 13 years old, I have wanted two things for my future—to travel and to write whenever and wherever I wanted to. When a little postcard came in the mail from a university in Pennsylvania I had never heard of, I thought little of it. Until the second postcard came, offering me a position in the school’s First-year Study Abroad Experience program. I looked through the pamphlets in the package with the invitation to apply. Then I researched the school online. It was like a luminous hand was reaching down from the clouds and delivering unto me everything I had been wishing for. Arcadia was my ticket out of Brock, population of 417.
After a quick plane ride halfway across the country and a visit to the campus in the middle of winter, my mind was set. I was going to Arcadia.
But then stress also set in. My head constantly swam with doubt and excitement. Could I really be living in a foreign country in less than a year? Was I going too far away from home? Could I make that big of a transition? What if I didn’t make any friends? Was this the right choice?
It wasn’t as if my entire future rested on my decision or anything.
The questions were not just coming from inside my head either. My friends and teachers wondered why I wanted to go so far away. No one seemed to understand why I would choose a foreign place that I barely knew anything about over the comfort of home. I tried to explain that I could not possibly turn down an opportunity like this—to travel, to grow, and to live.
As my senior year of high school came to a close, the reality of my choice began to really sink in. I was moving halfway across the country. I wouldn’t see my family for months. I wasn’t going to know a single person in this new school, this new place. Yet, somehow, it didn’t matter. In the back of my mind, I knew I was going to be just fine. I knew I was going to love this new life.
I could not have been more right. The transition wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had anticipated. The people on campus were surprisingly welcoming and had all sorts of questions about Texas that I was happy to answer. Does it snow in Texas? Yes. Do you go to rodeos? Yes. Do people ride tractors to school? On occasion.
I made friends in the dorm, and through orientation, my classes, and the Honors program. I eased into the daily routine on campus as if I had been here for years. However, even with the hustle and bustle of campus life, it was easy to let the feelings of homesickness creep into my mind. At times, I felt like a hug from my mom was all I really needed. But my family and friends back home were just a phone call away.
It didn’t take me long to start living the life I had always imagined for myself. I traveled to Philadelphia with my Honors friends and tasted the best ice cream I’ve ever had in America’s first ice cream parlor. I scouted out Glenside with my roommate and found Keswick Village, an artisanal area with an old theater and vintage soda shop. There was barely enough time to feel homesick as I basked in the euphoria of new foods and sightseeing.
Just like that, I was waking up in a dorm room, with fairy lights strung along the ceiling and posters flashing their quotes of encouragement, as if that was the way it always had been. This new life became reality and the setting sun behind the castle became my view every night.
I may be a long way from home, but I know that I made the right decision. Arcadia has become my home and the friends I’ve made have become my family.