I constantly receive questions about how and why I ended up in Michigan all the way from Texas. People always ask how I am adjusting to the winter, how I heard about Hope or what made it stand out.
Hope is a special place with kind people. There is no perfect college, but there are some non-negotiables when it came to picking a college. I wanted a small school with a vibrant community. I wanted a place where I could be pushed to grow. I wanted a school that could fulfill my academic goals, spiritual needs, and lifelong friends.
I always knew I wanted to go far away from home for college. Why not? If you have the opportunity to go somewhere completely different for a few years, take it. Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful reasons to stay near home — home cooked meals and free laundry can come in handy, but If I could go back in time and look back at my college decision process, I’d still pick Hope College.
The first time I visited Hope was right about now in my senior year and I quickly learned that winter in the Midwest means heaps of snow, frosty temperatures, and many excuses for hot cocoa. With that being said, here are some other lessons I’ve learned being 1,200 miles from home — outside of the importance of warm layers.
- Homesickness is a real thing
Unfortunately, homesickness is a real thing. Whether you miss the tacos like I do or you miss your pets, you are bound to feel homesick. However, you shouldn’t be afraid of it. Change can be hard and scary, but there is so much growth that comes from it. The first time I got homesick, I thought I was the only one feeling this way. This is not true – it’s normal. So many of my friends struggled with it in our first semester. It’s important to acknowledge those tough feelings and talk through them. I remember talking about homesickness with one of my professors and after I let those confusing feelings out, I felt much more at peace being at Hope.
- Get ready for the layers
The feeling when you walk into a warm building after being outside for an extended period of time is indescribable. I love being right on Lake Michigan – even in the winter when you can walk out and see the frozen waves. I used to think anything below 50 degrees was cold, but like I said earlier, there’s nothing a few layers can’t fix. Be prepared to layer up and down multiple times a day — in every season! It may be a hassle at first, but you’ll get used to it. I actually enjoyed the process of buying all of my winter attire and everyone was so willing to help. Who knew there are so many options and features in parkas and snow boots?
- You will find a community
I was incredibly nervous coming into Hope because I didn’t know anyone here. I was nervous about the shorter breaks and what I would find myself doing since I wouldn’t be able to go home. I was nervous about finding a church that I connected with. I was nervous about getting to the grocery store and the list goes on and on. If this sounds anything like you, you will find a community and be more than okay. It may take some time, but you’ll have more than one offer of where to go to Thanksgiving dinner. People will text you to check in on you. I receive texts from staff and professors asking if I need anything because they know I may need the extra encouragement. As I spend more time here, Holland has felt more and more like home. You will be taken care of.
If you’re looking at Hope from a Texas or a few thousand miles away, I strongly recommend a Fly-In weekend! Getting to be on campus and catch a glimpse of what your life could look like, despite being so far from home, is such an important step in this process. Hope College is worth it and it may be the school that stands out makes you feel like home despite the distance. It’s normal to have worries, fears, and uncertainties. It’s healthy. Hope College has challenged me in so many ways. Like I said, if I could go back to my college decision process, I would pick Hope College over and over again.