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Abby Dotterer

Abby Dotterer mugs for the camera during her graduation from Natrona County High School. Dotterer is now a student at Franklin & Marshall College.

In the back of my mind, I always knew that I wanted to go to a college outside of Wyoming. However, I wasn’t sure what it would be like once I actually left. College was just this idea that I had with a new life, friends and experiences.

I picked a college far away from home. So far that it took a 27 hour drive spread out over three days to get to campus. With each state we drove through, I started to feel more and more nervous. What if I didn’t make friends? What if no one liked me? What if I picked the wrong college? Though these questions swirled in my head, I decided that I had to prove myself wrong.

The first few days on campus were rough. My family hastily unpacked all of my stuff and said goodbye. It was bittersweet but I knew that it was for the best and a new life was just about to begin. On campus, we had a lengthy orientation schedule filled to the brim of get-to-know-you activities that started early in the morning and wouldn’t end until late in the night. This was the time to make friends.

Having moved around a lot as a kid, I knew how to talk to lots of new people. I was definitely nervous but I knew that if I got over the awkwardness as soon as possible, I wouldn’t have to deal with it later. I met so many people, to the point that names were getting hard to keep track of. Overall, orientation was definitely hectic but once classes started, I was thankful for the calm of things.

I wasn’t homesick until well into the semester. While some kids in my dorm definitely struggled with being away from their parents for the first time, I loved it. I felt like I had been living by myself for years.

But there was a time when the homesickness definitely hit. It was even more than that, too. It was fear of the loss of my childhood and the protection of my parents. A few months into the first semester, I started getting sick. It was to the point where the doctors on campus were wondering if I could have appendicitis. This meant that I would have to have immediate surgery, all alone in Pennsylvania.

I remember waiting for the results from different tests so the doctors on campus could tell me what they thought was wrong. I would have to wait over the weekend to know. One night, the pain was so awful, I was pretty sure it was something serious. I went to the emergency room and stayed there until five the next morning. I had my first CAT Scan, wondering where my mom was and how long it would take her to get to Pennsylvania. Of course, my thoughts went to the worst case scenario but I didn’t see myself walking outside of the hospital doors, getting back to campus. Though I texted my mom a lot that night, I learned that I could handle hard situations by myself, even like being in the hospital all alone.

Now, I do miss everything a little bit. I miss being in high school and living at home. But I wouldn’t trade it for college. I’ve learned how to stand on my own two feet. I’ve also found out that it’s okay to be homesick but it’s also okay not to be. At this age, you start to make decisions by yourself, for yourself.

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