Lehigh University campus scene covered in snow

Moving Across the Country for College: Going from the West Coast to an East Coast College

I was born in the Bay Area of California and lived there my whole life. As a senior in high school I committed to Lehigh, and eventually it came time to move across the country for college on the East Coast. I was nervous and excited to take on the challenge and get outside my comfort zone. These are some of the surprising and predictable things that would have comforted me and prepared me for the process.

No one will ever stop asking you why you chose Lehigh

As a senior in high school or in your freshman year, you expect to hear the question “What made you come to Lehigh?” It’s an understandable question to ask when you come from far away. Some people cannot understand why you would ever trade the sunny California winters for shoveling snow. In my senior year of college, I still get asked this question all the time — when I am at home, at school, everywhere I go. So, better get your scripted answer down soon, because these lines are bound to be repeated over and over.

Traveling is a pain but gets easier

As a child, airports stressed me out, and I would always end up in tears at one point or another. Now, I have almost mastered the Newark airport, which is no easy feat. The biggest caveat to going to school so far away is having to travel. When everyone goes home for Thanksgiving and my friends have an hour drive to get back to their houses while I have six hours of travel ahead of me, I sometimes question why I do this to myself. There is a learning curve when it comes to traveling across the country, but now I have become comfortable with it and it has given me a sense of pride. Experience will make everything infinitely easier.

Winter is worth the cold

I think I am more of a wimp about the cold than most people, even more so than others coming from California. Experiencing my first winter in Pennsylvania was bound to be a learning experience. Before moving east I had never heard the phrase “wind chill,” and that was not a fun term to be enlightened about. I found the hardest part of winter to be days when it is both windy and cold. Nevertheless, you suck it up. I still made the morning walk in the freezing wind chill to my 8:45 a.m. intro to economics class. These perils, though, are offset by the instant joy of reading an email saying a class was canceled because of the snow or seeing it fall around you. My freshman year I had a midterm exam delayed because of the weather, which was a big relief. The campus was covered in snow and watching it come down feels delicate and magical. On snowy days on Lehigh’s campus people will also take to the hills with sleds, box lids, pieces of cardboard or full-on skis to slide down the steep hills. Though it takes some getting used to, I would not trade any of these experiences for a 40 degree California winter.

It's a small world

Even though home is a long way away and I did not know of Lehigh or the Lehigh Valley before I began my college search, people quickly came out of the woodwork that were a connection to home. I came to Lehigh and I met people from my hometown in California who I never knew before. I had people reach out to me who knew friends or family and were connected with Lehigh or the Lehigh Valley. I met people at admitted student regional events who I am still friends with today in my senior year. Even in my hometown, wearing my Lehigh gear every once in a while, I will get noticed by someone who is an alum, and it is always a sweet way to brighten your day. While Lehigh may seem far, the connections that most certainly exist will make it feel a whole lot closer. I have run into people from my high school on tours of campus and given private tours to people from back home. If you ever get homesick, there are people who can share these feelings with you and make you still feel connected.