Chapter 1- From New Jersey to Boston: The Decision to Move to a City

As a junior in high school, there were only a few things I was sure of. The first was I wanted to go to a college where I could major in English and writing. These were always the subjects I was most passionate about in high school and I wanted to study something I enjoyed in college, so this choice felt clear. The second thing I was sure of is that I wanted to study abroad, preferably in London. I had always been drawn to London for some reason. Perhaps it’s because the city left a lasting impression on me after repeatedly watching the 1998 version of The Parent Trap and Mary Poppins throughout my childhood. Also, as a prospective English major, it made sense to study abroad in the country where writers like Shakespeare, Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters lived. However, the gigantically glaring question that I had no answer to was this: where would I go to college?

I grew up in a town in New Jersey that is approximately a square mile and my graduating class was less than a hundred people. I had seen countless romanticized depictions in movies, books and TV shows about people moving from small towns to big cities, thus the idea of going somewhere totally different was intriguing to me. I wasn’t particularly keen on applying to any schools in New York City. It was a city I was accustomed to visiting at least twice a year and I never foresaw myself living there. It was simply too bustling for me. After doing some research, I discovered a few universities and colleges in Boston that piqued my interest. This eventually led to my uncle and I driving to Massachusetts to visit Northeastern University, Boston College, Emerson College and Boston University.

When we were not taking campus tours led by eager students, my uncle and I decided to wander around Boston and part of the surrounding suburbs, like Brookline. During our exploration of Boston, it began to dawn on me that spending a few days exploring the city and living there were two distinct things. While walking around Brookline one evening and peeking into various storefronts, I realized that if I chose Boston, I wouldn’t be a tourist in the city. If I ended up in Boston, I wouldn’t be staying in a hotel with a relative and returning home in a couple days. I would be living in this urban center on my own, which was daunting to consider, yet part of me was also excited to think of all the independence, activities and resources I would have at my disposal. 

Commonwealth Avenue, Boston University campus
Boston University. Image Credit: 

I didn’t let my mind set on definitely going to school in Boston, though. I applied to colleges and universities in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, so that I could be closer to home. Some of these schools even fit the idea of what I pictured a college campus to look like, with their green spaces, quads and stone facade buildings. As time passed after I submitted my applications and I was just anxiously waiting to hear back from all these schools, I subconsciously began to assume that I would most likely end up staying in New Jersey. I thought that the probability of me being accepted into the more competitive out-of-state schools was slim and it would be more financially feasible to remain in-state. Also, by the winter of my senior year of high school, everything started to feel real. I would actually be graduating, no longer see the same faces everyday and go to college. If I ended up going out of state, I would have to say goodbye to my family, which was beginning to feel like another massive change I wasn’t entirely prepared for. I was, and still am, close to my family and the thought of leaving behind this crucial support system was terrifying. 

However, on a fateful Saturday morning in March of 2017, I was shocked to be accepted into Boston University, especially after receiving a rejection from Northeastern two days prior. What was even more surprising was the financial aid package, which made BU a feasible option. Boston University certainly checked off a lot of boxes for me: I could afford to go, they had programs that interested me, I could study abroad, I would be guaranteed housing for four years, etc. Of course I was apprehensive about leaving home, but as the astonishment wore off in the following weeks, I told myself that I would regret not taking the opportunity to move somewhere new and experience being on my own. Therefore, with nervous excitement, I accepted the offer to begin my undergraduate studies at Boston University in the fall of 2017. 

Quick tip: choosing a school for either undergraduate or graduate studies is a pretty monumental decision, so you shouldn’t feel afraid to make inquiries. Whether it is sending an email to someone or posing a question when touring a campus, it will help you gather all the information you need in order to decide where to apply and, ultimately, what school to select. For instance, at the end of my campus tour of BU, I asked the tour guide about the study abroad program. It turned out that he had just returned from studying abroad in Geneva and he described the application process and what it was like living in a different country. Even though it was only one person’s account, I felt more confident in and curious about BU’s study abroad program after hearing someone else’s experience. It could also be helpful to make a list and prioritize what you are looking for in a college. What is most important to you: location, financial aid, research opportunities, study abroad options, housing, classroom size, campus lifestyle, etc.?

By: Monica Manzo

Monica Manzo recently completed her undergraduate studies at Boston University where she majored in English and minored in History. Currently, she is planning on applying for some masters programs in publishing. In her free time, she can be found either reading or adding to her pile of unread books.

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