January 29, 2023

During my freshman year of college, I attended a university 950 miles away in Fort Collins, Colorado. I had dreamed of moving to Colorado since I was fourteen when my family first traveled there to stay at a friend’s cabin near the Rio Grande National Forest. After a few summers of visiting – I loved the clear mountain air, the impossibly tall trees and the down to earth people of Colorado. I have a heart for going to college in Colorado. So after graduation, I bought myself a durable winter wardrobe. I said goodbye to my family, friends and cats and moved to Fort Collins to start my freshman year of college in the fall of 2021.

I didn’t want to go to a big university, but Colorado State University was the most financially viable option for an international student. Also, one of my close friends from high school had decided to go there, so attending CSU seemed like a good idea. Have my boyfriend and I romanticized the idea of ​​going abroad for college? You bet we did. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed living in Colorado for a few months—even on the days when the wind chill was in the single digits. I expected the people at CSU to be completely different than the people I went to high school with, but that just wasn’t the case. In fact, many of the people I met at CSU were more serious partiers than anyone I knew in high school — that’s state school for you.

When I told other CSU students that I wasn’t going to the soccer game, they looked at me blankly and said, “But Everyone go to the game.” In many ways this was true. Football games are the pinnacle of social life in the state of Colorado, but frankly, their team isn’t any good. Now I sometimes take the quiet, almost sleepy atmosphere of the SU campus for granted. Every time I wish for bigger events on campus, I think back to my time as a freshman at CSU, when I had to park miles from my dorm to attend home soccer games. My friend from home and I weren’t interested in sports and weren’t interested in participating in the great Greek life experience. So we wondered how we could have fun and make friends in a school that is about both.

I decided to apply to Southwestern as an exchange student last year after speaking to several SU alumni about their experiences. One thing was always noticeable: the deep bond that they were able to develop with each other and with their professors. Every single person I spoke to mentioned the close connections they formed during their time at Southwestern. At CSU, I never developed deep bonds with professors or my classmates, which is what I looked forward to most in college. Instead, I formed a large number of superficial friendships and had little hope that my professors would even remember my name.

Southwestern may be small, but I’d rather be on a college campus where I constantly see people I know than on a campus where most people are strangers. From my personal experience, it’s a lot less intimidating and a lot easier to get to know the people sitting near you in a twenty-person classroom than in a fifty-plus person lecture hall. Additionally, being in a smaller setting gives you the opportunity to learn the name of each individual student in the class and hear the unique perspective they bring to the class discussions.

But there are two things I miss about Colorado State that SU just can’t compete with. First off, the location can’t be beat. Fort Collins is maybe my favorite city ever. It’s a hip place – about twice as populous as Georgetown, full of college students, pubs and cozy cafes. Plus, the hiking is simply unbeatable. The Horsetooth Reservoir hiking trails are just a few miles away and offer some of the best views Colorado has to offer. Georgetown’s Blue Hole Park just can’t keep up. Don’t get me wrong—Georgetown is cute, but in a quaint way, it’s never busy. I think the best thing about GTX is its proximity to ATX.

The larger parties at SU are undoubtedly held in fraternity houses. However, at CSU, for every Greek party, you can find two house parties that are probably more fun and just as big. Granted, they’re at least a ten-minute drive from campus to avoid noise complaints… but it’s nice not having to rely on fraternities to throw a good party.

Part of me still wants to be in Fort Collins, wrapped up in a heavy winter coat, trudging through the snow to a cafe full of college kids. But at the end of the day, the crowded and impersonal feel of a government school is not for me. I’m glad to be at Southwestern because it’s a cozy college with a tight-knit community.

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