Column: Why attending college out of state was the best decision of my life

Mallori Baker
Oxford Stories

If you had asked me two years ago where I saw myself going to college, never in a million years would I have thought I would end up in Mississippi.

Growing up in Oregon, my plan throughout high school was to attend the University of Oregon, try out for the dance/cheer team, major in communications, and later fulfill my lifelong dream of being a realtor.

I never even thought about going out of state. Why would I?

I would have the same friends. My family would be relatively close. It’s as if nothing would change. High school forever.

It wasn’t until summer of senior year when I realized those were the exact reasons I did not want to stay in state, and I was ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

You see, growing up, my mom did everything for me. I am embarrassed to say that before I went to college, I did not know how to do my own laundry. (It took me about 10 Facetime calls to finally get it down, but I did eventually learn).

At my high school, teachers and students were best friends, so it kind of made for an easy A. I never had a job. I’ve had the same friends since elementary school. I was ready for a change. I was ready to dig deep and find myself and my purpose in life. What better way than being extremely vulnerable, completely alone, and 2,000 miles away from home?

Whenever I tell people I am from Oregon, I usually get the same two reactions.

First: “Where is Oregon?”
Then: “Why the heck are you in Mississippi?”

When I get asked the second question, sometimes I say to myself: “I have absolutely no idea,” which isn’t entirely true, but Mississippi was definitely not my initial plan.

When I started looking into schools besides the University of Oregon, I fell in love with Texas Christian University. It had everything on my new list for qualifying universities. It was a small school with a big spirit. It was far from home. The campus was absolutely gorgeous. And I even knew a few people from my high school that went there, so I would not be totally alone.

My parents were in full support of me going there, and I knew I had a pretty good chance to get in. That summer, my dad took me to tour the TCU campus, and I completely fell in love. It all seemed perfect. Then, I got waitlisted.

I was absolutely devastated. My parents tried to tell me it was the school’s loss, and I am obviously not meant to be there. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and looking back now, I could never see myself at that school, but in the moment, it was as if my world was ending.

I have always had a weird obsession with the South. I think it all started after my mom showed me one of her favorite movies, “Gone with the Wind.” Obviously, that is not a modern depiction of what the South is, but I knew at some point, I wanted to go see for myself if it is all that I dreamed it would be.

With that in mind, my dad encouraged me to apply to other schools in the South. I applied to the University of Mississippi pretty much randomly. I only knew one person who attended UM who was four years ahead of me.

I contacted him, and he had nothing to say but absolutely amazing things about the school. He said Ole Miss was the “best place on Earth.” (I have to say, I totally agree with him now). Hearing his words gave me hope, and I was excited for what was ahead of me.

Over winter break, my dad took me to visit Ole Miss, and as soon as I stepped foot on the campus, I knew this is where I am meant to be.

Granted, I visited UM in the dead middle of winter, and I still found it insanely gorgeous. Everything about this school was perfect, but there were a few things that made me a little weary. I knew one person, and it was 2,000 miles away from home. I know I wanted to go far, but I had no idea I would be considering a school this far.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, I knew I was going to get homesick, but I knew I wanted to go to the University of Mississippi.

Looking back at my freshman year, I cannot believe it is almost over. It seems like just yesterday I was driving to the airport with my mom, tears in my eyes, scared out of my mind. I was going to a completely new place, all alone, and had no idea what would lie before me.

There is something so scary about the unknown. I kept saying to myself, “Am I doing the right thing? Should I really be doing this?”

At times, it’s not easy being so far from home, but not once have I ever regretted it. I could not be more proud to attend Ole Miss. I have learned so much about myself and the world around me, and I could not be more grateful.

The things I have seen, the places I have been, the people I have met, I would not trade for the world. This year was scary, exciting, and new, but most importantly, it was the best year of my life.

To anyone on the fence about going to school out of state, or moving to a new place, do it. Push yourself, and have the best adventure of your life. Although it is intimidating, I promise you will not regret it.

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