For many, distance from home plays a major role in the college decision. Going out of state may seem daunting, and certainly, there are obstacles to overcome, but it also opens you up to new possibilities and new adventures. Graciela Garcia ('20) is from New York City and discusses finding her freedom at Springfield College and the learning curves along the way.
Growing up in New York City was something I never really thought twice about. I didn’t find it different that I’d take trains and buses for easy travel, that I’d never rode the yellow school bus to school, or that the skyscrapers that constantly surrounded were simply part of my home. NYC seems like this magical, crazy place for the setting of countless movies, tv shows, and books, but again, to me, it was just home--just a regular day in life living in my apartment with my sisters, mom, and dad.
It wasn’t until I came to college that my life changed in a way I didn’t really expect. Although Springfield is considered a city, it's definitely not New York City. I remember the looks on people’s faces when they learned I didn’t have a car, a license, and even a learner's permit. All of those things weren’t a necessity back at home, but I quickly felt how useful and handy they would have been while being in Springfield.
Like millions of New Yorkers, my main source of transportation was the MTA; cars are basically what every other person outside of a major city uses to get around as a necessity. I went from being a free bird and leaving my apartment to the outside world around me, with endless possibilities of getting around, to relying on and asking people for a ride to places, which is really outside my comfort zone. I was startled to find that I felt like I had lost my freedom.
Growing up in NYC, I became independent very quickly-- I had to. I started walking to school when I was 12 and then taking the MTA alone when I was 14. I worked my way around the city and knew my streets, avenues, signs, neighborhoods, and more as I grew older. I was able to navigate all by myself at a very young age, including outside school opportunities like mentorship programs and jobs. Coming to this new environment, which I was not used to at all, was harder for me than I originally thought it would be, in a large part because I couldn't be as independent.
I couldn’t leave my dorm and walk down the street to the movies, to go shopping, hop on a train or bus and go wherever I pleased. To this day as a senior, I sometimes feel trapped by the 4 walls of my dorm. The streets, sidewalks, and the places are different here and you mainly need a car on campus to really be able to get out and explore Springfield.
I was happy that the school began offering shuttle services in my sophomore year that went to different places on the weekends. This was beneficial for people like me and the first years who don't have a car on campus. I met more people, made more friends, and began to feel comfortable asking for favors like a ride somewhere I needed to go. I began to feel like I knew Springfield and the surrounding area as well.
It was a learning and growing experience for me personally. It emphasized the importance of having a license for freedom and travel. Even if I don’t need it at home, I never know what the future holds for me and where I might be in a few years. Having your driver's license is really important, whether you have a car or not because you never know when you might need it.
Not having my license or a car however didn’t scare me off from attending Springfield College, however. The whole reason for me going out of state for school was for a new, different experience, and I have learned new things. I've enjoyed learning about different people's backgrounds, discovering aspects of life that you don't find in the city, and overall just getting outside of my comfort zone.
I’ve been more social since coming to college, more willing to take risks, explore the kind of person I want to become, and take myself out of my old mindset. I feel more mature, and know how to be independent in a way that goes beyond traveling the city streets on my own. I've also had to learn how to take care of myself without any help from family. I've learned life skills I know I never would have if I had stayed near home. I’m grateful for many of the experiences I have had at Springfield College and, despite the learning curves, I would not take back my decision to attend school out of state and out of my comfort zone.