Chapter 1: Where Do I Go Next?

The date is October 4th, 2019. Just a few months before we’re forced to remain inside our homes and the only way we would talk to our friends would be through a screen.

I was a senior in high school and freaking out every day about where the hell I should go to college, what I would major in, or if I should even go to college because the idea of not living in the same vicinity as my dog was terrifying (note to self: after four years it is still very difficult not being with my dog everyday).

Me and my dog Coco graduating high school! (We have a co-dependent relationship)

I knew that the best decision would be to go to school because if I stayed back home while all my friends moved on, my already not great mental health would get even worse. So, with that in mind, I spent almost all of my free time researching different colleges, debating how far I should go, and deciding if I should actually listen to my mother when she said I would prefer a smaller campus compared to a big one. I was 17 so naturally that teenage angst told me that my mom didn’t know what she was talking about. Now at 21, I realize she knew exactly what she was talking about. Further proof that mother’s always know best, but that’s not the topic right now.

By the time application season rolled around, I had applied to about five or six schools with two schools on the top of my list. One was a school in Massachusetts that I visited once and thought was cute and despite being far from home, was still close to one of my brothers who lives in Massachusetts. The other school was Pace University, only thirty minutes from home with an alternate city campus if I wanted to go further.

On October 4th, 2019 I went on a tour that I didn’t know then, but would ultimately be the tour that made my decision to go to this school.

It started off as a regular tour with the generic tour guide claiming this is the best school ever while walking backwards and constantly reassuring the parents that this is the safest campus in New York and your child will be taken care of. Needless to say, I was bored out of my mind waiting for the tour to end so the actual fun part would begin.

I had a family friend who always felt like a sibling to me at this school who would give me the actual realistic tour and let me hang out in their dorm while my mom went to watch the baseball game (coincidentally my stepbrother’s school was playing against Pace that day). Together my friend and I walked around campus, sat in the dining hall (I took a bite of the french fries, they weren’t great but there’s a McDonald’s down the street), hung out with some of their friends, and then went back to their dorm to watch stupid YouTube videos. You know, the routine of almost every college student.

On December 10th, 2019, I got the acceptance letter to Pace University. By January 2020 I had heard back from all the schools I applied to and got into both of my top picks. I had no idea how I was going to make this decision because I struggle just deciding what I’m going to eat for lunch, so figuring out the next four years felt impossible. But, thankfully, my mom told me we could visit both schools again just to get a feel for each. I was hoping I could get a more personal tour of my second school so I could compare it to the one I got from Pace. However, before I got a chance to do so, we were locked into our homes.

Being a class of 2020 student affected me more than I thought it would. If it wasn’t for COVID, I honestly couldn’t say I’d be in the same position I’m in currently. When decision day came in I reflected on both schools and knew that Pace was the place for me. I already had a distinguished relationship with someone I trusted and knew that would help me find the courage to break out of my shell in school.

Me and my friend Cayleigh this past summer in 2023

With this friend close by, I could contact them for any questions I had, felt encouraged to actually go out, and just genuinely have someone there for me when needed. I’m forever so grateful to this friend for all they have done for me and I hope one day I can return the big favor they’ve done for me. (Hey Cayleigh, if you’re reading this, let’s go get some drinks with our moms and I’ll tell you how much I love you again).

Positive relationships are so beneficial not just for your mental health, but physical health as well. Better Health Channel’s website has a blog about how relationships help lower one’s anxiety and depression, which was something I was worried would worsen when going to college. I had already struggled with my mental health for years beforehand and going into an unknown school not knowing anyone would definitely affect my anxiety. Thanks to this existing relationship, my overall mood was significantly better as was my confidence in getting to know people.

Me the day I moved into my dorm in August 2020

In August of 2020 I finally moved into my first dorm at Pace University after several facetimes and conversations with my roommate. By then I had two established relationships that ultimately made my first week at my new school exciting rather than terrifying.Having a connection with someone can make new challenges in your life more enjoyable which it ultimately did for me.


  • I had been struggling for a while about what college I should go to but thanks to my friendship with a student at Pace it made my decision easier.
  • I was a senior in high school during 2020, so I was in lockdown when trying to figure out which college I should commit to
  • This friendship made my confidence about entering a new stage in my life much better and lead me to not being afraid to reach out to new people (Including my roommate I mentioned at the end)

Every college student needs to stay caffeinated! Enjoy a free iced coffee with the purchase of any sandwich! Make sure to bring coupon and student ID!

By Mia Ilie

Mia Ilie is a student at Pace University, graduating in May 2024 with a degree in Writing and Rhetoric and a focus on publishing. She grew up in Rockland, New York and is currently living in Westchester, New York where she attends school and works at a local bookstore. You can always find her with her nose in a book or screaming to Taylor Swift with her friends.

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