My (unprepared) feet for last year's first snow

By Hannah Daniel

Changing leaves literally floored me. On the day I left the Phoenix desert for Boulder it was 118 degrees. I frequently tell that story when people ask about where I’m from. Places get defined by just a few things - quick snippets and stereotypes people know about it. When I talk about Phoenix, I talk about the heat. Likewise, when I talk about Boulder I talk about the mountains and the weather. So when we got those first waves of crisp fall air accompanied by the most beautiful leaves I had ever seen, I honestly couldn’t stop talking about it.

The truth about going to college out of state is you will have really wonderful moments (and a few tough ones) of culture shock. You will see things that your hometown could have just never revealed to you. I never knew what it was like to find the tallest hill you could and slide down it with your best friends on your first ever snow day (an occurrence that happened one lucky finals week my freshmen year at CU). But I also never knew what to look for in a good jacket and pair of boots, so later that day I sat on the floor of my dorm room with a hair dryer, trying to warm my toes after I wore rain boots and a light rain jacket I thought was sufficient for the Colorado winter.

But these are things you can plan for. Do some solid googling or take one trip in the winter and learn what to expect. There were things that maybe I could have prepared for when I left home at 18. There are things that you just can’t prepare for and those things,, honestly, can be really hard. I grew up in a small suburb and I had known everyone since I was about 8 years old. Most people where I lived went on to a nearby college and go home every weekend. I wish that someone had been straight up with me that my life was not going to be like theirs;that my wild and crazy adventure of a life was going to be a different normal.

Here’s the truth about being out of state: you get to create a life that is fully yours and fully different than what you had. Take that at face value: it can be as amazing as you want it to be. But it is NOT going to be easy to be a little far away and this is true for everyone. Even if you fight with your mom every night, you will miss her and want to go home and hug her and then you will have a moment when you realize how far you are. But please, please, please don’t let me being real scare you from taking the best and biggest leap you could take. Because here’s the other truth friend: creating a life that you always wanted is the most fulfilling thing you could ever do for yourself.  With time, you become independent, learn how to take care of yourself and problem solve. You will discover parts of yourself and personality that you never knew were there within the confines of at-home comfort. You know why? Because you have all this wide open space to figure it out! You will never regret engaging in a more growing experience than going away for college. I have climbed mountains both physically and mentally that I didn’t think I ever would have anywhere else and I am so much better for it. The University of Colorado Boulder has provided things for me that I never would have done at home and allowed me to make myself a home that I always craved, I just didn’t know it yet.

You won’t go through this alone. CU Boulder has about 60% in-state and 40% out of state students on campus. I have friends from all over the country and have gotten to go visit places I never would have (shout out my roommate’s amazing San Diego beach house!). My advice? Make some friends from here and from there. We go to our roommate’s parents’ home 20 minutes away for a holiday meal every year and get a taste of what we know. We also enjoy the crazy care packages my Oklahoma friend’s mom sends. Find someone else who knows what it's like to miss your dog like crazy and go pet a few at the humane society (or wait until finals, they visit us in the library!). Part of this growth is allowing the wonderful people around you to expand who you are.

The bottom line about being out of state? Don't be afraid of the struggle. You’re already far from home and have pushed yourself so much, don't be afraid to completely dive in because you won't regret it. You will change with the leaves and with each season you will not believe how beautiful you will become.