Ask A Student Diplomat: What It’s Like Moving Away From Home For College

Kathryn KerrQuestion: What's it like moving away from home for college?

Kathryn Kerr: I hate to admit it, but when I was a senior in high school, I almost didn't apply to Duquesne. To be honest, I had never heard of it until one of the pharmacists I work with, a Duquesne alum, informed me about her alma mater. Being from the Philadelphia area, I initially intended to attend a college in Philly so that I could come home easily, as I was sure I would be homesick no matter where I went to school. When I listened to the pharmacist tell me about Duquesne, I had thought there was no way I'd go all the way to Pittsburgh for college. I had never been to the city, and certainly would not travel that far away when I could receive the same education much closer to home.

The city of Philadelphia is home to three pharmacy schools, and another is located less than two hours north of the city. I was certain that I could choose one with which I could be happy. However, I decided that I might as well apply to Duquesne to have another option. After all, I had attended Catholic schools my entire life and preferred to continue my college education at a Catholic institution. Since Duquesne was the only pharmacy school on my list with this affiliation, I was happy to have the option of a Catholic school available.

As I learned more about each of the schools on my list, I gravitated closer towards Duquesne. While every college had many positives, Duquesne was the only one that fostered the same sense of community that I experienced at my Catholic grade school and high school. Each college in Philadelphia offered great opportunities, but in my perspective, they seemed to focus solely on achieving excellent grades. Duquesne, on the other hand, seemed to emphasize high academic achievements while also striving to develop well-rounded students. This is partly accomplished through the liberal arts nature of Duquesne University, but, in my view, can also be attributed to their identity as a Catholic institution. The mission of Duquesne is to "serve God by serving students," a goal that is well-integrated into the Mylan School of Pharmacy. The school promotes community through hosting a wide variety of student organizations to become involved in, and through assigning each student with a faculty mentor. This mentor program, which allows us to ask for advice from those who have been in our shoes, encourages the sense that the faculty truly care for the students and their well-being, and not just about academic achievements. Additionally, the School of Pharmacy adopts their own version of the Duquesne mission statement through hosting a number of events focusing on "serving God by serving patients," or enabling students to practice the lessons they learn in the classroom on real patients to not only enhance their skills, but also to improve the lives of patients.

Because of these factors, I had a feeling that Duquesne was the best fit for me. However, the one thing holding me back from enrolling was the distance. Would I really be alright being so far away from home? After all, if I ended up not liking Duquesne, it would be more difficult to transfer to other pharmacy programs, since the application process is so competitive. However, in the end, I decided to take the leap and enroll at Duquesne. The positives of the program and the general atmosphere of the school outweighed the concerns I had about being so far away from home. I only hoped that I wouldn't become too homesick in the process of working towards my degree.

I have to admit that the first few months were difficult. I had come to Duquesne knowing nobody, and while it wasn't hard to make new friends, I missed my family and friends from back home. While it's only a five-hour drive from my house to Pittsburgh, it's far enough that I can't easily travel home for a weekend. This was hard for me to accept at the beginning of my freshman year, but looking back, I believe this distance was for the best. I have the tendency to be a homebody, and I know that had I gone to school in Philly, I definitely would have gone home nearly every weekend. By attending a school far from home, I was forced to grow up. After all, college is a time for developing into your own person, establishing your own independence, and discovering who you really are. Forcing myself to develop my independence in a brand new city helped me realize that while I prefer to be close to home, I can successfully establish myself in new places without knowing a soul. I am grateful that I learned this early on in my adult life rather than later, as pharmacy can take you anywhere geographically, and I know I am equipped to make relocation transitions relatively smoothly.

The other drawback I had been considering while making my college decision was that I would be limited to networking in the Pittsburgh area, and may have to end up accepting a job in Pittsburgh. Ultimately, my goal is to end up practicing in the greater Philadelphia area. However, after learning more about opportunities available after graduation, I understand that this may not be as much of an issue as I had once thought. While I may need to spend a few years away from home in order to establish my career, the pharmacy world is so diverse that it is likely that I can find a job in some area of pharmacy close to home, provided that I do enough networking in preparation.

Despite my hesitation to enroll at Duquesne, I am proud to call it my home away from home after four years. Duquesne offers exactly the environment, quality of education, and professional opportunities that I had been looking for in a university. I could not be happier with my choice of school, and am extremely grateful for the opportunities that are available to me as a student in the Duquesne University School of Pharmacy.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly 8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University’s academic programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh region have earned national acclaim.

It's time for bigger goals
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