Over the weekend, I visited Amherst, Massachusetts, where I spent my freshman year at the University of Massachusetts. I was visiting friends from that year, and I hadn’t seen them since I left unexpectedly and came to Binghamton University in the fall of my sophomore year. I left UMass because I was experiencing extreme depression and anxiety, and needed more help dealing with that than I could get there. I don’t regret coming to BU for a second because, frankly, it saved my life, but I have struggled with the thought that I am missing out on something because I transferred.
From my time here at BU, I have learned that the experience of transferring is similar to what many students feel as Bearcats, whether they came here straight from high school or took a detour — we are constantly plagued by thoughts of “if only” or “I’d rather.” Regardless of why we came to BU, so many of us are hung up on qualifying that decision. “I didn’t want to come here, but it was so cheap,” or “I wish I had gone somewhere in the city” are common refrains among my friends, and it is doubly hard not to fall victim to these thoughts as someone who grew up in the Binghamton area.
I had a hard time adjusting to life at BU because I took on the mindset that I was missing out on the life my friends were living at UMass. I spent nearly my whole first year here thinking what it would be like if I had stayed there — where would I have lived? Would I have joined a sorority? The college newspaper? I did, and still often do, compare my real life here to a fictional one I have created as a projection of the way I was as a freshman. I didn’t want to admit that I was holding onto this hot stone — this idea that I should have toughed it out at a school I hated just because it was a straight path, free from messy explanations of my choice to leave it.
There isn’t a ghost of me back in Amherst. There is only me, here at BU, living the life I have chosen for myself. You aren’t missing out on anything by being here at BU — I promise. It is hard to remember that sometimes, especially when your richer friends post pictures from NYU or Vassar, but we picked BU for a reason. It picked us. BU accepted us on paper and it has welcomed me and other transfers into its folds, too. BU has let me change my mind and my path, and kept me moving forward even when it felt like I would never be able to take another step.
As I enter my senior year, I still struggle with this imaginary ghost of the person I would have been if I had stayed at UMass. However, if you asked me now, I would never go back. I like so much of BU, despite its constant reminders of what could have been. It has become a huge part of who I am. Rather than being plagued by thoughts of what could have been, this year, I am choosing to focus on what is. I encourage you, freshmen, to do the same. Don’t fall prey to the thought that you’ll spend a short year here on your way to Cornell. Be present and work hard to become the person you like the most in the whole world. Whether you stay all four years or leave after half of one, make it your goal to find a confident and loving companion in yourself.
Georgia Westbrook is a senior majoring in art history.