Turning a new leaf: what it’s been like moving away from home for graduate school

Normally, this is the type of thing that I would post about on my personal blog (which I’ll link here for you to peruse if you want to), but I realized that this particular post, despite how personal this is to me, belongs here. I want this blog to reflect my journey, how I’ve made realizations about my research and the things I’m interested in, etc, etc, but part of this journey is also my personal choice to go down this path. Not every part of that path is going to be an easy step to take.

About six months ago, I made the decision to move from the West Coast to the East Coast for graduate school. Two months after that, I graduated from the University of Washington; 2 months after that, I moved to the Philadelphia area, and 2 months after that- here I am, typing up this post. I was really really excited for my first big move- also really nervous. When I’m around new people and unfamiliar places, I tend to close up, and in the past I’ve had a hard time making friends and really immersing my self in things because of that, and I didn’t want to repeat that mistake. But (believe it or not), the East Coast, or at least Philadelphia, not only presented a new place, but also a different culture, some parts of which were not easy to get used to.

The first month of my being here was not easy. I was homesick a lot, and it was really annoying that I didn’t know where to go to get what I needed. I felt like I was wasting lots of time just wandering around. I also ended up spending more money than I intended when I first got here (shocker), and that really made me feel powerless for a while. I kept telling myself that these little things- though they often felt big- weren’t bad things- they were lessons, and opportunities for me to be more creative. But they didn’t often feel like that. For a long time, it felt like things just sucked, and that’s not the story that I wanted to tell friends and family back home, all of whom had been so supportive of my move here, and who I didn’t want to disappoint by having a negative perspective of all of the changes that happened.

A view of Philly from the rooftop Garden, Cira Green. This park is completely FREE and it’s beautiful!

I think things finally started feeling better for me when went on my first trip to Wawa. For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, Wawa is a convenience store, but it’s not like 7-11. It’s amazing, and if you’re ever in Philly or surrounding parts, you have to go! When a good friend of mine (hi Maria!) heard that I’d never been there, she offered to take me. I was expecting a fancier 7-11, but what I found was sooo much better! In fact, me and our other friend (hi Ravneet!) who joined us on this little adventure loved it so much, we decided to make it a weekly thing. Now we go once a week after class.

Things also started to feel better after I went to the Museum for the first time with my lab. We’re running a really cool study at the Academy of Natural Sciences right now which looks at how children explore science exhibits. Watching kids realize how amazing it feels to learn science made me feel like everything that had been difficult for me during the last couple months was worth it, because I’m in the right place for me right now.

Taken at Love Park

I think the biggest realization that I had was that there are little things that can really add up and make your life hard after you move, even if you stand by your decision. These ‘things’ can be different for everyone. But, there are also lots of little things that can make the entire experience amazing, and it’s those things that you have to be on the lookout for, even when life is hard.

Taken from at the top of the Rocky steps