Most people start to seriously think about leaving their hometown when it’s time to apply for college. Should you stay close to home for the next 4 years? Or go somewhere new?
Moving away from your hometown is a big deal. Especially for people who have lived in the same city for the past 17 years. I understand that. I had friends that felt like Toronto was their hometown. There was no need to experience living somewhere new because they’re certain that Toronto is the best. Or they thought moving to somewhere new is too scary.
Then, I had friends who couldn’t wait to go somewhere new. They felt that they’ve lived in Toronto long enough and want to see what’s out there in the world. It was always the same people. Same places. Life was getting boring but we weren’t even 18 yet. Life barely started. I belonged to this group.
I wanted to go somewhere and start all over again. The last thing I want is to be confined in this tiny little bubble my whole life.
Where was I heading? Somewhere in the U.S. for college. That I always knew. I visited the States quite a few times growing up and have always wanted to live there. At least for a couple of years.
Going to the U.S. versus Staying in Canada
I also prefer the U.S. university admissions process more than Canadian universities. In the States, schools have standardized testing, recommendation letters, personal essays, etc. Colleges look at the whole package. At the time, it felt like Canadian universities mostly focused on grades. Since my grades weren’t amazing, I revelled in the opportunity at having the chance at doing well in other areas. The U.S. is also way bigger than Canada so there are more schools to choose from.
Many people from my high school went to the same handful of universities. They were all pretty close to Toronto. A lot of them are really nice and if I went to a university near Toronto, I’m sure I would have stayed in touch with more high school friends. But did I really want to be around the same group of people since fifth grade?
I wanted a completely blank slate and it was hard to do so if I was seeing the same people all the time. Although Canadian universities have a large student population, I probably would have stuck to the people I knew already because it was easy. I wanted to challenge myself by going to a place where I knew no one.
So, I worked hard on my university applications and eventually accepted an offer from a university in Boston. I longed for this moment for what felt like forever. This was it! My new life!
Reality Turns Out Differently
When I first went to Boston, I struggled. A lot. What drew me to going somewhere new was because I could be free. I can be whoever I wanted to be and not be bogged down with all this history. Everything was new but when I arrived there, it was overwhelming because every single thing was new. I wanted some sort of familiarity and I got nothing.
I remember calling my cousin every week without fail because I was so homesick. Hello, bad moods! The first school semester was the worst. It got to the point where I considered transferring schools so I could be back in Canada.
(I actually bonded with one of my best friends from university because of how much we both wanted to transfer to a Canadian university.)
During those first few months of school, I questioned myself a lot. Did I make the right decision coming to the U.S.? Maybe I’m not as brave as I thought. It might be one of those things that sound good in theory but in reality, moving away from my hometown is not suitable for me. How do people do it?
When you get excited about something, you often focus so much on the good parts that you forget about the not-so-great things that come along with every situation.
New Normal – Cooking and Eating Out By Yourself
It took some adjusting, to say the least. Eventually, I started doing things that l didn’t use to do. Cooking was one of them. I barely cooked before university because I was privileged enough not to have to. While in Boston, I started to become interested in cooking. I would look up recipes online and tried them out. This experience made me get slightly better at cooking (but it wasn’t until quarantine where my cooking skills improved significantly).
I started to eat out by myself. I know people do this but it’s not something I thought I would do. Simply because I didn’t have to. If I want to eat someplace in Toronto, I can call a friend and ask if she wanted to try this new restaurant together.
I ate out at restaurants when I didn’t feel like cooking and discovered some really great seafood restaurants and great snack places around town. Going by yourself means you don’t have to follow anyone’s schedule. If you wanted to go out to eat RIGHT NOW, you can.
When you first move to a foreign city and don’t know anyone, it forces you to do things you’ve never done before. I was self-conscious eating by myself at restaurants in the beginning. It took time to realize that no one cares you’re eating alone. Some people might even think you’re brave because it’s not something they think they can do. You will feel awkward at first but just like everything else, you adjust eventually.
Appreciating Your Hometown Friends
There was also a newfound appreciation for the people that stayed in my life. It was easy to have lots of friends in high school because you see them every day. When you leave your hometown, you’ll realize how many of these are situational friendships. You guys only stayed friends because it was convenient.
I actually lost contact with one of my oldest friends when I was at university. I got a new U.S. phone number. She had a new Montreal number. I had to ask my friend to ask her friend for her contact information.
Contacting my childhood friend through social media wasn’t an option because I didn’t have any. It was at a time where I stayed off all social media. I really valued my childhood friend, which is why I made that much effort to get her phone number. If she wasn’t someone I care about immensely, I would have let the friendship die down easily. The process would have been quite fast too.
When you’re in a new place, you have to make more of an effort to keep your friends. You have to schedule phone calls and find time to see each other when you’re back in your hometown for holiday breaks. We all have limited time so you will have to choose who’s worth it. Your close circle of friends will probably change but that’s also when you know who your true friends are.
Meeting People from Different Backgrounds
Most of my friends had a similar upbringing. They all lived in Canada for 10+ years. Most of them were born there. When I went to university, I suddenly was open to a whole new world. I became close to people/was roommates with people from different countries such as Singapore, Saudi Arabia, U.S./Jamaica, Brazil, and Panama.
You learn their stories and about their backgrounds. It makes you feel that there’s no real standard for normal. What’s normal for me and my friends back in my hometown is completely foreign to people from different nationalities. And vice versa. It makes you realize how small your world was for so many years.
Leaving my hometown made me grow up in ways that I can’t even explain. I’ve matured. See the world differently. Became more independent. Made new friends.
Would I have had all of that if I stayed in my hometown? Some might argue that you’re an adult at 18 years old. Changes were bound to happen. I agree to some extent but I also feel that I wouldn’t have changed as much had I chose to stay at home.
I obviously can’t say for certain how different my life would have been if I decided to go to a university close to my hometown. But I do believe that I would have had an easier time if I did. I’ll be forever proud of myself for choosing to leave when I could. No one can take that experience away from me either.
You’ll feel accomplished and proud of yourself for doing something brave. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is never an easy feat but you’ll look back and mentally pat yourself in the back. The world is so big. I don’t think I truly realized this until I moved out to live on my own.
Ask Yourself This One Important Question
Although I have zero regrets about leaving my hometown, I understand that not everyone is going to be like me. Everyone’s situation is different. If you are unsure about whether or not to leave your hometown, ask yourself this one question.
Will I regret not leaving in 10 years? What about 20 years?
This is how I make most of my major life decisions. I listen carefully to what my heart tells me and go from there. There is no guarantee that you will prefer life somewhere else compared to your hometown but do you really want to regret not taking a chance when you have minimal responsibilities?
If you know that you will get a Master’s degree, you could stay close to your hometown for your bachelor’s. You will have another opportunity in a couple of years. However, I didn’t know if I was going to get my Master’s degree so it was the last time for a full academic experience.
I rather live a life with ‘oh wells’ than ‘what ifs.’
Final Reason – Why Leave Your Hometown
The journey will probably not be smooth sailing but it’s worth it. If you can, considering your financials, I highly encourage you to leave your hometown to experience the world. Even if it’s temporary. You’ll always have the option to move back if things don’t work out.
But more than likely, you will change for the better, experience new things, and not regret the decision. If you tried moving away and decided that you didn’t like it, you can tell yourself that you’ve tried. You won’t regret it down the road, and that’s all that matters.
Have you left your hometown? Where did you go? What made you decide to leave? I would love to hear your story.