The Emotional Roller Coaster of Being 1000 Miles from Home

By: Lauren Panchley  – Health Policy & Management

I am a loud and proud New Englander. I was born, raised, and educated in Rhode Island. I grew up rooting for Boston sports teams, eating lobster rolls and fried clams, using “wicked” as an adverb – I couldn’t be more stereotypically New England if I tried. I really love where I’m from, so my decision to move to Atlanta for graduate school was kind of a big deal.

Many people have asked me why I chose to come to Rollins, instead of attending one of the public health schools in the Boston area, which would have allowed me to be close to my friends and family, the beach, Fenway Park – basically everything that matters to me – while still receiving a top-notch public health education. But truthfully, I never considered staying in the Boston area. I wanted to force myself out of my comfort zone after college, and Rollins/Atlanta seemed like the perfect place to do it. So, here are some of the realities – both good and bad – of going to grad school so far from home:

I’ll start with the bad. First and foremost, the adjustment period can be really difficult. I came to Rollins right from undergrad, so I was dealing with a lot of changes in my life. Almost all of my closest friends from college moved to Boston together, so I had to cope with some serious FOMO, and I also had to get used to the fact that when I wanted a homecooked meal, I couldn’t drive 30 minutes to my parents’ house. Add a heavy course load and a massive new city, and you get A Very Overwhelmed Grad Student.

Being far from home can also be lonely. This is especially true when you’re coming from a place (like New England) that is very different from Atlanta. For me, everything from the weather to the way people talk was foreign. There was no mistaking that I was not in the North anymore, and this, along with the fact that all of my closest friends and family members were nowhere nearby, was really isolating.

Moving to a new city, especially for a new phase of your life like grad school, isn’t always a walk in the park. However, for all of the downsides of moving 1000 miles away, there are so many upsides. Life in Atlanta is exciting and a lot of fun. There are so many unique neighborhoods to explore, a great food scene, trails and bike paths galore, beautiful weather, a rich history, and – oh yeah – one of the best public health schools in the country and the CDC. I chose to come to Atlanta for all of these reasons and more.

il_340x270.1614676603_82izBecause I took a chance and uprooted my life to come to Rollins, I have had some of the most incredible experiences both inside and outside of the classroom. I’ve made great friends, I’m taking interesting classes, I’ve gotten to hear President Carter and Dr. Paul Farmer speak in person – and I’ve only been here for six months! Even though I struggled at first, I’ve never regretted my decision to leave New England for the Empire State of the South, and I’m excited to see what the next year and a half has in store for me.

So, if you’re considering making a big move by coming to Rollins, I can’t promise that it will be easy. But I can promise it will be worth it.

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