There were 1,167 miles separating the life I was so accustomed to and the unknown, college.
I always knew I wanted to go out of state for college. Seeking new experiences and adventures, I wanted to go to a top journalism school, so in April 2010, I committed to Indiana University Bloomington.
The school had some roots in my family-- my father graduated from the university's business school, and I had visited the campus multiple times during middle and high school.
However, I was still going more than 1,000 miles away from my South Florida home. I did not know anyone going to I.U.
While I was apprehensive after move-in and when my parents drove away from my dorm, I quickly made friends in the coming weeks in my dorm and through campus organizations and found my niche, making the large university seem smaller.
There are horror stories about rooming with your best friend, and some may not exactly click with a random roommate. However, my random roommate quickly became one of my closest friends at I.U.
One of the ways I increased my chances of a compatible roommate was signing up to live in a living-learning community -- a floor in a dorm that houses freshmen who share a common interest, whether it's the outdoors, music or, in my case, media. Many colleges give options, including preference surveys, to help make successful matches.
In high school, I was involved with many clubs and sports. I wanted to be able to be similarly involved in college. However, at first, I was hesitant to just show up to a club's first meeting of the year by myself.
Don't be, though. Every freshman is in a similar position, either seeking new, non-high school friendships and interests or looking for a sense of belonging at an out-of-state university.
The first week or two, I became involved with a half-dozen organizations, but I had to limit my involvement to the ones I liked best as the semester progressed.
I decided to spend more time with the student newspaper and other journalism activities. At the Indiana Daily Student, I found my true home away from home.
Everyone who decides to go away from home and go out of state for college has a reason why they chose that school. For me, it was the newspaper.
For you, it may be a particular major, organization or the location itself. But I can guarantee there will be at least one other person, if not more, with that same reason. Just seek them out and go to that initial call-out.
Do not be scared to be alone in the college town during the weekends or holiday weekends such as Labor Day. Many students remain on campus during these times, and there are plenty of activities going on.
Skype with parents and friends from home and keep in contact with them, but also do not let your time at college be merely memories from your dorm room. Explore and meet new people.
Enjoy every moment because it will fly by all too fast, and don't worry about being away from home.
It was the best decision of my life.
Claire Aronson, who was a summer intern at the Post-Gazette, is a senior at Indiana University Bloomington, majoring in journalism and sociology with a minor in political science. She can be reached at email@example.com. First Published October 3, 2013 4:00 AM