When it comes to choosing a university, the decision you make should never be made lightly. There’s a long list of reasons why anyone chooses a particular one. Perhaps it felt like home on the day you visited it. Or maybe the city is one you’ve had your eye on forever. Maybe the department was one of the best for the subject you wanted to study. Whatever it is, you have to live there for the next 3-4 years, so the decision cannot be spontaneous or without careful thought and pre-planning.
One thing I see come up most often when people describe why they chose their university is proximity to home. So what happens when you meet someone that moved so far from home they can’t just pop back every weekend with a bag of dirty laundry, enjoy a Sunday roast and then grab a late train back on Sunday morning?
I am that person. Whilst Aberdeen University does have an amazing biology department and is one of the world leaders in marine biology research, one of my defining factors for choosing it out of my other options was that it was a 600 mile journey away from my home town.
When I turned 18 and first went to university, I actually went to UEA to study chemistry. My reasons for choosing that university were pretty standard – great department, loved the uni, felt at home in the city, and it was an hour train ride from home. I was young, had just entered into a relationship before I left and was in no way ready to leave home (if you want more on this story, check out this blog post about why I waited to go to university). I was going home every weekend and in the final term of first year I only went to campus for my exams. Whilst proximity to home was not why I dropped out, the intense home sickness I felt turned the wheels when decision making time came for uni number 2.
My options the second time around were Aberdeen, Essex (in my home town), Plymouth, Anglia Ruskin and Hull. The only 3 I’d applied to with any conviction were Essex, Aberdeen and Plymouth. But Essex had a stand-alone Marine Biology department and was mostly a social sciences university, and my motivation to go to Plymouth died the day I got a letter telling me my acceptance was a mistake, and my course of choice had been changed. Aberdeen had always attracted me, but the distance and the extra year of university made me think it was an unrealistic favourite. I had a plan – to keep the part time job that was killing me, keep the flat and relationship I already had, and get my degree at Essex. Minimal change, but a step in the right direction.
That all changed when I finally visited Aberdeen and knew I couldn’t go anywhere else. When I got home from the open day I confirmed my choice and excitedly told my friends and family I was leaving in 9 months. But although people were happy, people were also confused. Why would I move so far away?
Things are different now – I left my job, my relationship ended, and Aberdeen is now my home. And my new boyfriend, who is from Aberdeenshire, and I are very settled and very happy. We have a cat and everything. But a huge factor for me when deciding which university I would go to was remembering how often I went home the first time I went to university. Putting that gap between me and home meant I couldn’t just jump on a train whenever the mood took me and escape. I had to deal with my problems head on. It really made me grow as a person and learn to cope with everything life would throw at me.
It also helped me to filter out the people in my life I only kept around due to circumstance, not those that genuinely wanted to be in my life. My old job featured some anti-social hours, and I quit a month before I actually moved away so I could have some time for me, to get everything in order before the big move. Over that time I mended some relationships that had soured and strengthened friendships with my true friends, before heading north and making some new ones. These are now my strongest friendships – I still speak to these people regularly, even if we go months between seeing each other.
So overall, I do think the benefits outway the costs when it comes to moving so far from home. Sure, it’s nice to have a home base, but nothing makes you grow up quite like having to support yourself, and make all your own calls. It also feels like a fresh start – cutting the negativity that never leaving a hometown can cause. Sure, Aberdeen’s not the greatest city in the world. But I love it. And I’m so glad I found my feet here!
Would you ever move far from home? What are your experiences?