Reflections on Going Away for College

Los Angeles native Blake Sperling is finishing his sophomore year at the University of Miami.

My senior year, aka college application year, of high school was a wild year of joy and sadness.  I applied to 9 universities and was admitted to four. In the end, I chose University of Miami as my home for the next four years.  As a San Fernando Valley native, I applied to many schools outside of California.  Unlike the clear majority of my friends who applied to every UC and a handful of Cal States, I applied to just two UCs and zero Cal States.

For me, high school was four years of “bleh.”  I felt like by the end I had fallen into a rut and wanted a change of pace.  They say college is the time for you to start new, start fresh, be different.  While I knew this was true, I also knew that going to a UC with fifteen to twenty or even more of the kids from my high school would leave me frozen in that same high school rut.  I wanted to truly embrace the freedom of college.  So instead, I applied mainly out of state and I ended up on the opposite coast in Miami.  I knew then how much more impactful it would be for me to go out of state, but now, as I complete my sophomore year, I can see the impact even more clearly.

Less than 24 months since I graduated with 940 of my fellow high school seniors, I scroll through the several hundred contacts in my phone and find that only about 10 of them are from high school.  For many people, this might be a scary realization.  Your best friends who you have been with day in and day out for 18 years of schooling and come graduation, you may never speak to them again.  I, on the other hand, see it differently.  I looked at these hundreds of contacts, nearly all from the last 20 months and realize how in awe I am of the experiences and interactions with so many new people and the truly amazing number of incredible friendships I have made.

Last week, I was home for spring break and saw a few friends with whom I have stayed in touch.  What I saw was shocking.  These friends at community college, Cal States, UCs are still friends with dozens of our high school friends.  They are still talking about the same things we talked about two years ago.  They are still hanging out at the same places and doing the same activities.  It was like I had traveled back in time.  Then I look in the mirror and realize something has changed.  I have started fresh, become that new person I had dreamed of becoming during high school, and my friends had stayed the same.  I look at the very few friends who joined me in leaving California and they, like me, were new, unique individuals.

Going to school in California has a tremendous amount of benefits.  However, as a sophomore in college who has been through the same wild journey you are about to go through, ask yourself: what kind of person do you want to be in 12 months, 24 months, 4 years, 10 years?  Do you want to continue living in your high school years or do you want to transform into someone new, someone different, someone amazing?  Going across the country away from my safety net has allowed me to evolve on my own and really become the person I always dreamed I would become.

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