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Unlike many other Spartans who knew they wanted to go to MSU almost since birth, I had a different plan for my education.
Like my two older sisters before me, I assumed I would go to the local community college and then later decide where I wanted to transfer. I applied to MSU on a whim, but when I received my acceptance letter, I subconsciously started making my plans. Before I knew it, I was picking out MSU clothing at Campus Den and telling everyone I would be a Spartan in the fall.
Before coming to MSU for the first time for my Academic Orientation Program, or AOP, I had never been to East Lansing. I didn’t know anything about the university’s history, its campus or the programs offered. I had no idea what I wanted to major in or in which dorm I wanted to live. I took suggestions from the few students I knew who attended MSU without doing any research for myself.
In retrospect, I could have prepared myself much better for my entrance into the college sphere, and I hurt myself in not doing so. I figured that living only about 30 minutes away from campus, my family would be there to help me through it.
But with only a few weeks to go before moving in, I found out that my family would be moving to Chicago when I went away to school. For someone who initially was excited to be living only 30 minutes from my family, I was devastated to hear this news. Not only was I going to leave my friends behind, but now my family was leaving me behind, too.
I tried to look on the bright side and focus on what I would be gaining in college rather than what I would be leaving behind in Jackson. This was made even harder for me when our house started to empty out, and I realized that I would have no home to go to if things weren’t working out at school.
I really struggled my first two years at MSU, learning to live with a roommate who wasn’t my sister and adjusting to the workload. I had breezed through high school, putting in minimal effort and receiving good grades, but college was different for me. Without the support of my family and a slowly disintegrating group of high school friends, I felt lost. I seriously considered transferring to another, smaller school to see if that would be a better fit.
To make things even worse, after a rough freshman year, only being able to visit my family fewer than 10 times, my mom informed me that they would be moving even farther away to Fort Smith, Ark. When I would hear other people talking about what horrible things their parents had turned their bedrooms into, I felt it necessary to remind them how lucky they were to still have a home.
I was trying impossibly hard to hold onto the few strings that still connected me to who I was in high school. I was going to my hometown every weekend, missing out on countless opportunities to try new things and meet people up here. I worried that if I stopped going home, I would lose who I was completely.
My junior year was when everything changed. I started staying at MSU on the weekends, met new people and got a job. I changed my major to professional writing and met my adviser, who made me believe that I really could end up with the job of my dreams.
College wasn’t the wild and crazy party I thought it would be, and it didn’t change me into a different person entirely, but I am stronger.
For me, college was about learning to be independent, to make my own decisions and to value the things and the people who really matter. Sure, I’ve drifted apart from almost everyone back home, but I do have a stronger relationship with both my dad and my grandmother because of my experiences at MSU.
Although MSU wasn’t my dream school, I have developed a sense of pride for this place. I find myself getting defensive when someone has something negative to say about MSU, and I will never wear blue and yellow together again.
For someone who had never even been on campus when I went to my AOP, MSU became a home for me when I lost my own, and as I find myself getting ready to graduate this December, I feel that I am well-equipped to handle change, thanks to my time here. And although I am happy to be leaving and moving on to the next thing, MSU always will be the place where I found myself.
Liz Dobson is the assistant copy chief at The State News and a professional writing senior. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.