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What I Learned By Leaving NYC for College in the Midwest

College is a weird time in which people tend to feel stuck between two homes—your college town and the place you’ve grown up. I have the unique experience of coming from a bustling city like New York and moving to rural Ohio for college. How could one girl feel at “home” in these two distinctly different environments?

Ohio views

NYC views

When I was younger, I felt cheated by not being raised in a small town, with high school football games and all the clichés I secretly yearned for. But as I grew up and became more independent, I started to really appreciate all that my city had to offer. (NYC is truly like no other.) So why would you leave New York? It’s a question I get a lot. Based on the career path I’d like to take as a singer/songwriter, I know that even if it’s not New York, I’ll most likely end up in a big city again after college. So I decided that I needed to leave the city environment to learn not only about my craft, but about myself.

My room in Ohio

My room in NYC

I feel so lucky to have this small period of my life where I can live in the suburbs and experience this lifestyle. Something that I’m really appreciating about living in rural Ohio is how much less stressed I feel all the time—even as a college student. Without honking cabs and people whirring past me in subway stations, it feels like I can breathe and take things at my own pace.

I also love how accessible nature is to me. One of my favorite things to do here is go on long bike rides past cornfields (yes, they exist!). This is something I probably wouldn’t have even thought to do in NYC. I also love how cheap everything is. I am not just talking about the difference in price of a cup of coffee. I know going to bars is a big part of the college social life at city schools, but that’s just not part of the social scene here. You can get your fair share of positive human interaction just by hanging with your friends and meeting new people, all without spending any money if you want!

My transportation in Ohio

My transportation in NYC

Something I don’t like about living in such a small town is that there’s no avoiding anyone. I don’t mean this in an antisocial way. I miss being able to walk through NYC, never bumping into someone I recognize. The endless strangers going about their lives reminds me how small I am and how bursting the world is of lives, people, and stories. Though monotony can be nice, I miss the endless activities in NYC. Although, I suppose the lack here puts more pressure on getting to know people on a deeper level to pass the time, which is great. And of course, more than anything, I miss the shopping and food in NYC!

Coffee in Ohio

Coffee in NYC

I also notice how much my style varies in the two environments. Everyday in New York feels like an occasion I always want to dress up and look my best for. In Oberlin I feel inclined to more casual and lean towards more laid back looks. In NYC, I’m more likely to put a dress and tights on, and here I’m more likely to wear Levi’s and baggy cardigans.

So how can I feel at home in both suburban Ohio and NYC? It’s simple. Both have taught, challenged, and ultimately shaped me into the person I am today.

(All images by @sarahgargano29)