I was born 25 miles from my freshman dorm room, went to elementary school 15 miles from Swem library, and even danced at Prom 5 miles from my future sorority house. Even though I have spent the entirety of my first 18 years in and around Williamsburg, VA, I only ever thought of the city as home to Busch Gardens and the candy store in Colonial Williamsburg. Maybe a great place to go shopping, but definitely not the place for my college experience. I was certain that my parents would be checking up on me every few days, certainly, dropping by whenever they felt like a quick update or pep talk. The possibility of having my parents visit whenever they deemed appropriate had me terrified into researching schools in Alaska and ignoring the fact that W&M even existed.
I had myself convinced that the further away I succeeded in traveling to college (and accordingly, away from my family) meant the more realistic my opportunity to achieve the ultimate goal of any teenager: independence. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents. Whenever something good or bad occurs in my life, my hand is searching for my cell in order to give my parents a ring. In fact, I probably talk to my mother 20-30 times every week. I cannot believe I just admitted that. Regardless of my close relationship with my parents, I wanted to make sure in my choice of college that I could not be the victim of an unexpected drop-in or an unscheduled meeting. Like any teenager nearing that day when one must fly the coop, I was ready and anxious for the chance to live life my way and on my time.
Directly after the summer preceding my senior year my mom persuaded me to go on an official tour of W&M with an open mind and the promise that she would not pressure me to attend. I walked around the campus, talked to current students, and did everything I could to convince myself that I could not be happy at a school so close to my parents’ house. The effort was futile. When the afternoon came to an end, I was unequivocally in love with the college I had been running from for so many years. I went home that day and, throwing caution to the wind, applied Early Decision. I still remember the day I opened my acceptance letter and tripped over my own feet running to tell my mom the good news. W&M wanted me too. I was not ecstatic because I had been admitted to a college. Rather, I was elated because I had been accepted to a place where I was not going to be treated like a number, where my passions would be nurtured and encouraged, and where I could become the best possible me.
I know that I grew into the person I am today because of the freedom and determination I developed from living on my own in the supportive W&M community. The fear of my parents frequently stopping by or routinely checking up on me was for waste. Sure my parents were there when I got a nasty case of the flu senior year or when I simply needed mom’s home cooking. When I needed them, they were there. However, for the most part, I rarely saw my parents in college. In fact, I only went home for winter break my senior year (and not at all during fall, spring, or summer breaks). The beauty of being close to home is that I was able to get home just a little quicker than my friends when emergencies arose or breaks began. Yet, I still lived in the same independent collegiate world where I was forced to make my own decisions and learn from my mistakes. Having those loved ones and comforting environments only a short drive away allows one to take risks while knowing that safety net is just a little bit closer than the rest of your friends. In all honesty, you get the best of both worlds, enjoying the freedom of a traditional college experience with a shoulder to cry on or a bottomless bowl of pasta just minutes away. Trust me; the free laundry within a short drive will be the envy of your roommate!
– Amanda Norris