College is the best excuse to restart your life. Sometimes that means finding a new circle of friends or trying to find a career path. And if you are someone like me, college is the best opportunity to move to the opposite end of the country and start a new life.

I was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California, about an hour south of Los Angeles (LA). I lived in a relative paradise. The weather was always sunny and perfect at any given time of year. I lived off of some of the freshest, most authentic Mexican food in the country. Most of my days were spent lounging on the beach, surrounded by ridiculously attractive surfers. Unfortunately, paradise is a relative term. I spent 18 years of my life in the same place doing the exact same thing. Huntington Beach was beautiful, but trapped under the bubble of wealthy, conservative suburbia. There were so many things I had never experienced. I wanted to experience seasons, see my first snowfall and meet new people. I believed that I was meant to live in a different city.

So when my college acceptance letters came in, I picked the most dramatically opposite place I could: Boston University.

Most people thought I was insane. Why in the world would I leave sunshine and beaches for the blistering cold of New England? Would I freeze to death? Or god forbid, would I become a Red Sox fan? I spent the better part of my final summer brushing off these questions. I was a strong, independent, young woman. I could handle myself in a city like Boston.

My decision didn’t hit me until I was standing in front of airport security with a one-way ticket to Logan Airport clutched in my fist. Everything I could bring with me was crammed into a 50-pound suitcase. Around my neck, I wore my great grandfather’s scarf, the same family memento my dad had worn when he left home for college in New York City. I realized then that this was the biggest thing I had ever done in my relatively short life. I was about to be isolated in a city I knew almost nothing about, 3,000 miles away from my family, friends and everything I had ever known. The moment I set foot on that plane, I knew there would be no turning back.

I arrived in Boston determined to fit in. This was the beginning of my new life as a college student and I was determined to make my transition as seamless as possible, as though I had lived there my entire life. I bought myself a new wardrobe: heavy sweaters, waterproof boots and giant jackets that I never would have worn in California. I swore that I would not become one of those homesick students who would turn tail and run back home. No one would question that I belonged in this city.

My new life did not get off to a great start. Boston is a completely different beast from LA. I got lost almost immediately. My first few months were spent wandering incomprehensible streets and trying to avoid getting hit by oncoming traffic. The climate transition difficulty was partially my fault. Boston gets cold (very, very cold). For the first half of winter, I was severely underdressed in my thin sweaters and light raincoat in below freezing temperatures. I felt that I needed to prove my toughness in the face of winter, just like the other students. By some miracle, I never got hypothermia, no thanks to my dumb pride.

After a few months, I desperately missed home. I put on a happy face for my family, but I was terrified that I had made a huge mistake. Most of my time was spent nose-deep in books in self-imposed exile since I never made friends easily. Every time I looked online, I would see all of my friends back in California hanging out at the beach and having the time of their lives while I skulked around the library. I felt completely alone.

I confronted my insecurities thanks to a group of girls in my dormitory. There were six of us, all from completely different backgrounds: Boston, Texas, California, Germany, El Salvador and Jamaica. It was with these girls that I realized I was not the only stranger to New England. They all had family and friends they left behind too, with some making the even harder transition of adjusting to a new country. We were all in the same boat, a group of barely capable adults attempting to survive, so we decided to stick together. Making the transition to Boston was still a daunting challenge, but doing it as a team made it a bearable one.

With the support of my new friends, I began to finally figure out my life at Boston University. I started going out more, finding a balance between my studies and social life. I also found that I loved being a Californian living on the East Coast. I got to see my first snowfall, an experience that feels just as magical two years later. An entire frat house booed me as I cheered for the Dodgers and later the Los Angeles Rams. I get to play tour guide for my California friends when they come to visit, showing them around all of the best (and college-budget friendly) spots in town. I even have plans to invite my new college friends to stay with me in Los Angeles over the summer.

Moving away for college was scary and extremely difficult. However, it has since become one of the best decisions of my life. As much as I miss California, I know it will always be waiting for me. For now, I look forward to all of the many adventures Boston has in store for me.

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