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What It’s Like to Be an Out-of-State Student at UT Dallas

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Three years ago I arrived in Texas. I had no idea what was in store for me, and that scared me and excited me at the same time. A day earlier I was in my hometown of Abingdon, Maryland, a place that seems so far away now, as if it were just a dream.

Months before that, the summer was just beginning, and I was with my friends at the beach celebrating our graduation. We knew that high school was over and that life was approaching. Several more months before then, I had received a letter in the mail from a school I never heard of. I’ll be honest; I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t until I called the admissions office and made a quick Google search that I believed it. Some of my friends were also going out of state. But, on the northeastern seaboard, out of state is like making a drive to Austin or Houston from DFW. My friends were talking about school in Pennsylvania or Virginia. They were joking that I was going to need a cowboy hat and learn how to ride a horse. I told them I already knew how to ride a horse anyway. I knew that wasn’t what was actually in store for me, but I didn’t know what was in store for me at all.

I remember my last day in Maryland, saying bye to all my friends. Packing up the car and leaving with my family on the longest road trip I’ve ever taken. We arrived in Texas two days later. My mother and two sisters helped me get all moved in to my new dorm, and it all started to feel real. I walked them out, we said our goodbyes, and they drove away.

Now it felt real. Too real. The car faded off into the distance, and I realized I was halfway across the country with no way back home. I had always thought of myself as an independent person, but this wasn’t independence, it was isolation. It was exile. Abandonment. I didn’t know anybody at all. My friends, my family and everything I knew had been left behind. As I went back up to my dorm, I just kept thinking to myself: “What now?”

I’ll be honest. When I first got here, I was upset. I missed my home and family. I think back now, and that was a natural reaction. I wanted to sink into my dorm, put my head down, and hopefully when I looked back up I’d have a diploma and be back in Maryland. Back to safety. Luckily, I pushed forward instead. I knew I had to make the most of this time. I was in a new place. That meant new adventures. New stories. New memories. There was so much to explore. But, of course, I had to meet people.

That first semester was a blur. I was trying to find my place; I didn’t want to be the black sheep, the Yank in the South. I ended up joining a fraternity, Chi Phi, and that launched me forward. I started to make friends, become involved around campus and genuinely enjoy my time in Texas. I realized it wasn’t so different from home. And I could still visit Maryland anyway.

As I ended my freshman year, I had a decision to make. I could stay with a friend and get an apartment off campus, or I could go home to Maryland for the summer. I decided to stay. Two years later, and I’m still here. I’m still home.

Looking back, I had nothing to worry about. Of course the unknown is scary. But it’s how you approach it that matters. I’ve talked to other new Texans about leaving their home state, and most have had the same experience. They all seem to agree; If you keep your head up and make the most of it, you’ll call Texas your new home too.

Marcos Pelaez

Marcos Pelaez is an undergraduate student studying Accounting and Finance at the Naveen Jindal School of Management at UT Dallas. He is an active brother in the Chi Phi fraternity, serving on the PR committee, and a member of the Professional Program in Accounting. In his free time he likes to play sports, freestyle and create art. Read more articles

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