So Close Yet So Far

Hi, I’m Ashley and I’m from Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania. Any students from the Delco area can tell you that my hometown is not far from Swarthmore College; it’s only about a half-hour commute. While I like to call myself a local, I know quite a few students from the Swat area who can walk to the college in a matter of minutes.

When going through my college search process, I was looking at a variety of institutions. I looked at schools that were mainly on the east coast. Some were a short hour away and others ranged anywhere from 5-6 hours. While I didn’t know what I was looking for at these schools, I just knew I didn’t want to be too close to home (or so I thought).

Delaware County (Delco), Pennsylvania http://www.pattersonschwartz.com/pa/county/delaware/

I would definitely consider myself a family-person; I’m very close to my sister in particular. However, when looking at Swarthmore, I didn’t know how I felt about choosing a school that was only THIRTY minutes from home. The main concern that came to mind was my overall college experience. Would it feel like I never left home? I passed the Swarthmore exit about once a week going to church or driving to the mall. Shouldn’t the next chapter of my life be spent exploring new places? Is this really where I wanted to spend my next four years?

When visiting Swarthmore, I enjoyed immersing myself in its unique culture.  I was lucky enough to visit during the academic year, so I saw student life buzzing on campus. I observed the diversity of students and witnessed different interactions. The campus was obviously beautiful, the facilities were great, and there was easy access into the city. However, when my parents asked me how I felt about the school, I made up excuses, saying it wasn’t what I was really looking for, or that I just didn’t see myself going here. I said I wanted to keep my options open and visit other schools, but the more I thought about it, I realized that maybe the real problem wasn’t the school- it was its proximity to my house.

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Here we are now, and I just finished my first year at Swarthmore. I mention this on my tours, but I’m glad that distance didn’t determine my decision. I just learned that I was in control of my own experience. Starting college, my parents knew I was concerned about being so close to home, so they just told me not to come back and visit- and that’s exactly what I did. I stayed on campus the entire first semester with the exception of fall break, Thanksgiving, and Winter Break, holidays that most students went home for.

As second semester rolled around, something changed. All of a sudden, I found myself wanting to go home more. I don’t know if I was starting to get homesick or the end of the year was just tiring me out. Regardless, I was making more phone calls home, I wanted my family to take me off campus, and I wanted to bring friends home for dinner.

After being at Swat for only a year, I realized there were many advantages of being so close to home:

  • My family was able to come out to my lacrosse games.  I loved seeing them in the stands for support. Many of my other teammates’ parents couldn’t make it out to the games because they were from further away.
  • If I got really sick, they were only a short drive away.
  • I would be able to go home on the weekends or when I didn’t have class.
  • If my mom was feeling extra nice, she would bring me home cooked meals.
  • It was super easy to bring stuff to and from college.  I love my clothes and I’m lucky that I was able to pack my whole closet and bring a lot of stuff from home.
  • I could bring some of my friends home over the weekends and show them around my town. It was nice to get away from Swarthmore on some weekends.
  • I could go out and celebrate birthdays with my family.

While everyone has their own opinion, I realized that for me, a school’s distance from home should not be the determining factor in my college decision! Something I forgot to take into account was the other students on campus.  Living on campus has felt like a whole different world. The students you are surrounded by completely shape your experiences. I was scared of not feeling like a college student, but after my first year, I realized that it’s the people who have the biggest impact on your life in college. Swarthmore is such a diverse school with people from unique backgrounds. It was when I left for summer break that I realized Swarthmore’s location relative to my home was irrelevant to all the great memories I made in my first year.  

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