Away from home

One college student’s perspective about living on campus

By Renna Sarafa

Renna Sarafa

Renna Sarafa

For college students, it is always difficult go­ing back to school af­ter a long break. The quick transition from sleeping in one day to getting up early the next is a continuing struggle no matter how old we get. Even as a college sophomore, the struggle isn’t much easier. Not only do I have to get back into regular sleeping and study habits, I also have to leave my family and my home to begin a new semester at Michigan State University.

Michigan State is one of the largest universities in the country with a popu­lation of more than 50,000 students. Of that 50,000, approximately 100 are Chaldean. Although we are all from dif­ferent areas of Michigan, I have come to find that many of us share common feelings about going away for school.

“Sometimes I feel like by going to school away from home, I’m missing out on being involved in my commu­nity,” writes health blogger and fellow Spartan Zena Kashat. “I definitely feel like I miss out on a lot because I go to MSU and live away. Being Chaldean is a big part of my identity.”

When I originally read Zena’s blog post, I immediately related to her. I couldn’t have read something more accurate to how I was feeling. I shared the post with some of my school friends and found similar responses. It wasn’t that we didn’t like Michigan State or the people here; it was that we missed being a part of a familiar community.

I receive many different reactions from people when I tell them I at­tend Michigan State University. The responses vary. “That’s great, what are you studying?” Or, I hear: “Wow that’s awesome, how are they parties up there?” Although, even more regular­ly when I tell Chaldean students they ask, “wow, how did your parents let you go away?” At first, it surprised me that going away to college might still seem like a big deal in the community even though I am second generation Chaldean. My parents were born here. My father even attended Michigan State for his undergraduate degree.

My reply is simply, “my parents are like anybody else’s. They want their kids to have a good education and to learn more about the world around us.” This is not to say that my parents wanted to ship me away. They only want what is best for my future. We all agreed that choosing Michi­gan State was the smartest decision for me.

I also receive multiple reactions when I tell people I am Chaldean. Most peo­ple at Michigan State who are not from Metro Detroit have never heard of Chal­deans. When I explain to them who we are and where we are from, they are usually very intrigued and want to know more about our culture.

Going away for college has giv­en me the opportunity to grow as a woman in many different ways. It has allowed me to experience various dif­ferent lifestyles. I went from going to a small Catholic all-girls high school to a huge public university. Adapt­ing to the new college culture took a while, but eventually I learned how to balance my academic work and my social life. It has also led me to meet many new people. As a fresh­man, I decided to join Michigan State’s Greek Life. This provided the opportunity for me to make connec­tions with people I probably would not have had the chance to meet.

I am also a member of MSU’s Chaldean American Student Asso­ciation (CASA). Although it is one of the smaller branches of CASA, this club has introduced me to many Chaldeans from all over Michigan and given me the chance to stay con­nected to our community.

I feel the greatest benefit going away for college has given me is the ability to learn and grow indepen­dently; from washing my own laun­dry to scheduling my own doctor’s appointments, I have matured faster than I ever expected. I have devel­oped as a young woman because I am responsible for taking care of myself.

It may seem like this is an easy transition, I get it. Who wouldn’t want to live on their own and do whatever they want? The grass isn’t much greener on the other side. There are things that I did not give much thought before going away. I miss out on quite a bit; small things like a home-cooked dinner seem like a 5-star meal when I travel home for a weekend. It is also great going to Chaldean Mass when I come home. Although the mass is very similar to the Roman Catholic Mass I attend at MSU, it is comforting to be sur­rounded by our people and celebrate our culture in the presence of Jesus.

Mainly, however, I miss my fam­ily and friends. As Chaldeans, we are always surrounded by our families. When I see pictures from a family event on Facebook or even when I hear a joke that I know only my siblings and I would laugh at, I feel extremely homesick. Thank God for today’s technology, because with­out it I wouldn’t be able to call my parents every day or FaceTime my friends throughout the week.

Overall, there are many benefits and disadvantages of going away to school. My advice to any students deciding where to go for college would be to follow your heart. If you are stuck trying to decide whether to stay home or to go away, reflect on the pros and cons your decision will have in your life. Also, remember ev­erything happens for a reason. If you do not get into your dream school, know that God has a much better plan in store for you. Don’t rush any of your options. Choosing your col­lege will be one of the greatest deci­sions you will make in your lifetime.

In the end, I wouldn’t change my decision for the world. Michigan State has become my “home away from home.” My college experience has opened up many pathways that will lead me to become my best self in the future. Go Green!

Renna is a Sophomore at Michigan State University in the Eli Broad Business School