As my first year at Brown comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on what I was doing last year during this time — making the life-changing choice to come to Brown. Choosing to move away from my small, mostly rural hometown in California and the people I’d grown up with to go to the farthest school I applied to was a frightening proposition. However, making the decision to move across the country to Providence was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Any prospective first-years with similar uncertainties as decision day looms on May 1 shouldn’t be afraid of choosing a completely new experience for their college years. By moving far from home, I have become more self-aware, resilient and responsible.
With my family being three flights and three time zones away, I quickly learned to be independent when it came to my health. When I was sick, I couldn’t go home to recover. Instead, I booked myself an appointment at the Health and Wellness Center, bought medicine at CVS and tucked myself away in my dorm. When I tore my ACL, I was responsible for learning about Rhode Island’s health insurance policies and attended the emergency room and orthopedic appointments on my own. Distance from my family during these health struggles was tough, but developing healthcare independence has taught me how to take responsibility for my own health without having to rely on others. Now, I’m much more confident in my ability to take care of myself and can easily discuss issues with my doctors and insurance provider without needing my parents to intervene.
Moving to Providence was also a drastic — but necessary — change in my physical surroundings. I have explored Providence by running around the city with friends and taking trips downtown, discovering a completely different world than the strip malls and farmland of my hometown. Life in bustling Providence is fundamentally different from the suburbia of central California, and I wouldn’t have understood how exciting — and, at times, frustrating — life in the city can be without living here myself. I’ve also been able to spend my Thanksgiving and spring breaks in other East Coast states. Exploring these new places gave me a new appreciation for the beauty of New England’s colonial architecture, Cape Cod-style houses and antiquated streets.
Moving far away from California also allowed me to have a fresh start in a completely new social environment. I didn’t know anyone in Providence, giving me the freedom to rebuild my image by escaping the expectations of my parents and childhood friends. After growing up with the same people my entire life, I was forced to use my rusty social skills and form connections with new people on my own. I was pushed far out of my comfort zone and began making new friends according to my interests and passions instead of proximity. In doing so, I improved my social and communication skills and learned about new ideas and cultures through Brown’s diverse student population. I also became more aware of my own values, priorities and sense of self in a way that might have been difficult had I stayed close to Fresno and attended the nearest University of California school, which was the choice of the majority of my high school classmates.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t significant drawbacks to moving far from home for college. Homesickness is pervasive on college campuses, even if students don’t appear homesick on the outside. There are certainly times when I miss the security, comfort and predictability of my old routine. Facing challenges and having to overcome them without the support of family nearby can build character, but it is still very difficult. In addition, the high costs for transportation are a significant drawback to living far from home, especially since traveling home for break can be too expensive. Despite all of this, I wouldn’t have wanted my college experience to be any other way. In the past year, I’ve experienced self-growth that I feel is at least in part attributable to moving far from home and immersing myself in a completely new environment.
Choosing where to spend the next four years is an incredibly daunting and consequential decision for any high school senior, with many important factors to consider. But when it comes to location, prospective first-years should view living far from home as an opportunity to enter adulthood and become truly independent, not as something to be afraid of.
Juliet Fang ’26 can be reached at email@example.com. Please send responses to this opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org and other op-eds to email@example.com
Juliet Fang is an opinion writer for The Brown Daily Herald. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, backpacking and watching duck videos on Instagram.