Student Blog: Sun to Snow, Being an Out-Of-State Theatre Major

Being a theatre major is tough, but navigating college as an out-of-state student is just as much a challenge. How does Megan handle it?

Student Blog: Sun to Snow, Being an Out-Of-State Theatre Major
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Being a theatre major is already quite the challenge but doing it while being an out-of-state student adds a whole new level to the college experience. As I mentioned in my introduction post, I am not a native to the Harrisonburg area. My hometown is Miami, Florida which is the complete opposite in every imaginable way. Here are a few of the challenges I’ve come across in my two years as a person who studies in Virginia full time but lives in Florida. 

The first major hurdle was the weather. My old biology teacher used to say Florida has two seasons, summer and hurricane season. Florida is known for its year round sun, humidity, and torrential downpours. When moving to a state that has seasons, one has to prepare. I had to buy actual snow gear and a wardrobe that could be mixed and matched to be functional but fashionable. My freshman year, me and my family made the mistake of buying this gear before we got there when in reality, the local Costco, Walmart, and Target sell this gear. If you also live in a state that doesn’t have a heavy winter and are moving to an area that does, don’t go buying things and clothes that you think you need until you get there. You end up filling your trunk with a bunch of gear that you either won’t use or won’t last. Additionally, if you are living in a dorm and come from a similar state, don’t overpack the winter gear. I always recommend buying it when you get there and have assessed the amount of space you have after unpacking the things you brought. Another weather challenge we came across was during my sophomore year in which we had to purchase things for my car. If you live in Virginia or anywhere up north, you know that it snows. I severely underestimated the snow pillage because last winter, it would sprinkle and melt by 2pm that same afternoon. This winter, I woke up one day to classes being canceled due to the snow and my car surrounded by fresh snow. Armed with a Florida ice scraper and a mop pole, I spent way too much time clearing the snow from around my car and driving it ever so gingerly around the apartment complex. I ended up buying an actual ice scraper with a brush which made the second time much easier. That being said, be sure to plan ahead by checking the weather forecast for snow or any big weather changes that are different from your home state and don’t be scared to buy the things you need when you get there. 

Another big conversation topic that comes up is traveling. How do you travel during breaks? Where do you leave things? What airlines do you use? Most people assume that I drive 15 hours which excluding my initial move in freshman year, I’ve never done. If I do want to bring my car, I book a ticket on the Auto Train which goes from Lorton, VA to Sanford, FL which is a few minutes away from Orlando. We did this when I moved back at the beginning of sophomore year. It saves my car the miles and saves me the driving time and hotel room. Well that’s great Megan, I hear you asking, but what about when you were a freshman living in a dorm without your car! There are many ways you can go about this but, these are the two ways I did it. Virginia Breeze bus lines has a route that picks up near JMU’s football stadium and drops you off at Dulles International Airport. I always found that the bus would show up very late and if you booked a flight earlier than 5pm, you missed it if you took the bus. It’s an affordable option but not always reliable. For those cases, I book a United Airlines flight since Dulles is their hub and book it for 6pm. When the bus proved to be too much for my anxiety I swapped, flying out of Shenandoah Regional Airport, connecting in Charlotte, and flying to Miami through American Airlines. The only con was that the flights left at 6am meaning I had to pre-book an Uber for 4:30am to get to the airport at 5:15am. I also had to Uber back from the airport when I returned unless a friend was kind enough to pick me up. It was very reliable but costly. Which meant that when I finally had access to a car, I had to abandon that plan. My current method is driving the two-hours from my apartment to my roommate's house who is gracious enough to let me park my car at hers so I don’t pay airport parking fees. I then Uber to Dulles from there. When I get back, I simply do it in reverse. I also live off-campus meaning that I don’t have to move out for summer break or I’m forced to leave at a certain time because they close. Looking at all of your options, booking flights and transportation ahead of time, and communicating with your campus living can all help make your out-of-state traveling smooth, easy, and affordable. 

Lastly, I wanna talk a little bit about homesickness. As an out-of-state student, it’s very easy to feel out of place in your new town initially. I know for me what made me feel homesick was the food. Not being able to go to the grocery store and pick up my favorite dulce de leche or wake up in the morning and go to my favorite Cuban bakery with my abuela to get pastelitos, cafe con leche, and croquettas wasn’t fun. However, eating new foods is never hard for me. I started going out with my friends to local breakfast spots and restaurants that have the same local feel as the bakeries back home did. It also helps that they have a Cuban restaurant downtown and a spot that serves delicious homemade Mexican food in a gas station near my apartment so if I ever get REALLY homesick, I can always grab a bite to eat over there. Another tip that I heard many people give me was to not go home often. Going home for the weekend is a lot harder for me than it is for others, because of that I didn’t travel home until breaks like Thanksgiving or Winter Break. I do agree that it helps with homesickness but I also found that it helped with my independence. It allowed me to be held accountable for the space I was living in since it's my full time home now. I only spend a max four months in my hometown, the other eight are spent in Harrisonburg. Because of that, my brain finally associated Virginia as my home. I also will say, leaving your hometown at the end of long visits gets easier. You have your own life and certain ways you become used to. You know you have to get back to your town and, adult. While the initial homesickness sucks, rest assured that it gets easier. It doesn’t disappear, it just gets easier.

If you have the financial means to go out-of-state for college, I will always vouch for it! Not only have I gained a sense of independence by needing to live and travel on my own, but the connections and memories I’ve made are some that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.