From Coast to Coast: First-Years Reflect on Moving Across the State and the Country

Coming from the West Coast

It was an 100 degree-plus day in the Sacramento Valley when I started to pack up my winter clothes to come to Colgate. I was reluctant to try on my jackets and sweatshirts in the California heat. Over the process of two weeks, I sorted my life into three duffle bags, a shipping box and a guitar case. I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to order all of my dorm room essentials. In order to avoid a nightmare of shipping and luggage, I arranged to have it all available for pick up at the nearest Bed, Bath and Beyond, located 40 minutes away in New Hartford. As it is for most college-bound 18-year-olds, I was asked where I was going to school in the fall more times than I can remember. When I told people that I was going to college in New York, they assumed that I meant New York City. When I told them that I would be attending Colgate University, I could tell that they really had no idea what I was talking about.

On August 20, I spent my last day in California preparing for the full day of travel that was to follow. I weighed my bags to make sure that they were under the airline weight limit and loaded them into the back of the car for my 6 a.m. flight Monday morning. I spent the whole next day traveling to Syracuse, unfortunately missing the solar eclipse. When I arrived in Syracuse, it was a welcome change that everyone I spoke to knew what I was talking about when I said I was on my way to my first year at Colgate. I stayed the night in Syracuse, and the next morning I made the one-hour drive to campus.  

Moving across the country has been a very big change, and it has certainly been a bit intimidating. People from my high school thought I was a little crazy for going all the way to New York. “Why would you ever want to leave California?” was a question that I was asked many times by my friends who were staying close to home, opting for state schools such as Cal Poly, UCLA and UC Davis. While moving to Colgate is not nearly as easy as driving a few hours down the coast, I know the work is worth it. I don’t know what drew me to college on the east coast. I suppose it was the allure of history and tradition, or maybe it was simply the desire to experience a different part of the country. 

As a Californian, I have never experienced a real winter. It has only ever snowed one time at my house that I can remember. It occurred to me this summer, however, that House Stark was right: winter is indeed coming. As we are in the humidity of August now, I still only vaguely understand what an Upstate New York winter will bring. My dad, who hails from Cincinnati, Ohio, has told me that I don’t really know what I’m getting myself into. All that I know is that I will be investing in a good pair of snow boots and a parka in the near future. 

Driving up College Street for the first time will be something that I will always remember. I was in awe of the incredible beauty of the campus. I had seen many pictures on the internet and on social media, but they didn’t do it justice. I was nervous to be coming to a new place where I knew no one, to a place that is 2,000 miles from my home. However, I was very excited. This was the moment that I had been waiting for the last four years. All the work I had put in during high school was leading up to this moment. I had arrived and I could tell that I had come to the right place. 

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From the East Coast to East Hall

It was the last week of July. I woke up with a mission: compile a list of every possible item I might need for my new adventure at Colgate. I started with the dorm room essentials — sheets, pillows, etc. — and moved down from shower needs to snacks. This list — the epitome of all college shopping lists — stayed with me for the rest of my summer.

My family took the list in shifts by category, checking it off section by section. We started with a trip to T.J.Maxx. The employee at the cash register realized I was shopping in preparation for college and asked me where I would be attending. I told her, “I’m not going too far away. I’ll be heading up to Colgate University in late August.” The woman looked up from scanning our items and smiled. “Oh that’s a great school,” she said. I left T.J.Maxx carrying several bags and the list with checks in a significant number of boxes.

After the shopping process came the packing process. My dad came home from Home Depot one day with nine plastic bins: my packing saviors. Before work one day, I took out the list and emptied out my wardrobe, closet and dressers, throwing every piece of clothing I own onto my couch. I spent different days organizing different bins, labeling each bin’s contents with duct tape and checking them off the list. I packed one bin of summer clothes and three for winter. Honestly, I was not in the mood to prepare myself for a New York winter, knowing how brutal they can be. Within the next week, all nine of my bins were packed and ready to go, and every box was checked off the list. 

The night before my departure, my family went to the Nautilus, my favorite childhood diner, to eat dinner. After dinner, my dad and I prepared the car to pack in the nine bins into which I packed my life. I remembered working with my dad in his shop, just the two of us. But, I had to focus on the list. After 20 minutes of struggling in the sweltering New York heat, we finally got the seats of the car out to maximize space. My dad looked up at me, and I could tell by looking in his eyes that he knew I was not his little girl anymore. 

Next came the strategic placement of the bins inside the trunk of the truck. We arranged and rearranged, until finally the four of us slammed the trunk door shut and placed a Colgate magnet on the back of the car. I was ready to leave. 

The next morning, I woke up to my alarm at 4:30 a.m. I made my bed for the last time, and ate my last breakfast with my family. I grabbed the last of my bags and lugged them down to the car. As we pulled out of the driveway, I waved goodbye to my house and watched the sun rise on the new day. A four-hour car ride awaited me. Having checked everything off the list, I finally felt at ease and fell asleep.

We arrived on campus and waited in the long line at Residential Life. My family helped me lug all the bins to my dorm. The room was finally finished; months of preparing and waiting had come to fruition before my eyes. I opened up my bag and saw the infamous list. I ripped it up and threw it in the trash. I sat down on my bed and stared up at the pictures I had hung, my high school skirt signed by all my friends and my friend map. As I watched my parents drive away, tears came to my eyes in realization that I had my own home in Central New York. 

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