Growing up, I was told on a nearly daily basis that I was expected to go out of state for college. Both of my parents had done so, my dad to UNC, my mom to Wisconsin. It’s not that Kentucky doesn’t have some great schools – it really does. But the independence you will learn from being a good distance away from your family is priceless, they would say. Go become an adult on our dime. What 18-year-old is going to argue with that?
Moving up to Pennsylvania, I expected to be shocked by the weather (in Louisville parlance, I was going to school “up north”). What I didn’t expect was a culture shock. During the usual introductions that abound during orientation week, people looked at me funny when I said I was from Louisville, with the native pronunciation – “Loo-ah-vul”. I had to say “like the baseball bat” more times than I can count. And let’s not get into a typical northerner’s reaction to the word “y’all”. It’s like y’all have a better option (“you all” is clunky, and I refuse to acknowledge it).
But mostly, I didn’t realize that even though Lehigh is a top national university, it is also very much a regional school. I was shocked when people would leave for the weekend because it was a family member’s birthday, or a brother had a football game. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to go home for that short little four-day weekend in October that I had seen on the calendar. My parents weren’t about to pay $300 for me to come home just because I had Monday and Tuesday off. So I improvised – I went on the Community Service Office’s pacing break service trip to D.C., and had a wonderful time. Easter in the spring presented a similar predicament, as my roommate packed for the long weekend. But my fellow Jews and I organized an Easter day football game and held court in an abandoned Rathbone.
My parents were right (hardest. sentence. ever.) Going to school far away from home did make me more independent. I had to watch what I spent, because nobody was going to drop a blank check off at campus. If I got sick, I had to put myself in bed and get better through the power of ramen noodles and free drugs from the health center. I was in plenty of plays at Lehigh, and my parents only got to see one. It made me realize how important family is, and also how a great group of friends can substitute for family in a pinch.
Going to Lehigh was one of the best decisions I ever made. I made friends for life, met my wonderful boyfriend (at the promenade the first week of classes), and took classes that led to the job I have today. I got to grow up (and have a great time) on my parents’ dime. Who could argue with that?
Katie Walker is a member of the Class of 2011 (Graduated 2010). At Lehigh, she studied English, and she is currently living in Philadelphia working as the Associate Editor of Organic Gardening Magazine.
Check out what our panelists have to say about dealing with distance…