When the holidays roll around, my Chatham University classmates scatter to their own parts of the world. Some cross the ocean, and some cross multiple state lines. While they are boarding planes, I board the Port Authority bus for a ride back to Plum.
For me, attending a university close to home was a no-brainer. There were many reasons behind my decision, the main one being my strong attachment to my family. When I began my freshman year, my little brother was nearly 6 and my sister was only 2. Traveling to another state and leaving my family behind just wasn't an option.
I also chose to stay here because I already was close to where I wanted to be. I moved to Pittsburgh a month before my 12th birthday, and, at the time, it felt like being in a whole new world. I went from flat-as-a-pancake Kansas to hilly Pittsburgh. I lived in Squirrel Hill for a year, and, during that time, I fell in love with Pittsburgh. Most of all, I loved Oakland and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
As a senior at Plum Senior High, when I learned that Chatham was nestled between Squirrel Hill and Oakland, I knew I had found my home for the next four years.
When attending a university close to home, there are two things to consider: Should you commute or stay on campus? For me, the choice was obvious -- of course, I was going to stay on campus. By then, I had been tucked away in the Plum suburbs for five years, and I was ready to leave.
I realized that because I studied so close to home, I could reap the benefits of having my family nearby while striking out on my own.
Unlike some of my peers, I rarely ever got homesick. How could I when home was a phone call and a bus ride away? I didn't have to worry about missing my sister's milestones or my brother's funny antics or my mom's warm hugs.
On the other hand, I had to go home to baby-sit every other weekend during my freshman year. As you can imagine, I missed out on a lot of fun times.
My sophomore year, I put my foot down. Weekends weren't just about having fun anymore; they were also about catching up on piles of schoolwork. My mom and I agreed I would baby-sit only in an emergency.
While staying close to home is not for everyone, there are a few things to consider. At the top of the list is whether it would save you money. You should also consider your own personal preference. Are you the type of person who can stay away from home for extended periods of time or do you need to see your family often? Many people can get over feeling homesick, but for some, it can be debilitating.
If you make the decision to attend school close to home, it is important to learn how to balance your home and school life. Don't let yourself use home and your family as a crutch. College is not meant to be an extension of high school. It is a time to grow.
Choosing a university close to home has allowed me to get the best of both worlds. At school, I exercise my independence, make my own choices (and mistakes) and am forced to take on more and more responsibilities. At the same time, I can always go home for a weekend or a home-cooked meal.
There's plenty of time for moving away after college, but for one last year, I want to enjoy being close to home.
Kitoko Chargois, who was a summer intern at the Post-Gazette, is a senior journalism major at Chatham University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.