Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to go to college in Massachusetts. Everything about the state interested me: Boston being so close, being away from my home state, and the endless opportunities for jobs and internships. In my eyes, Massachusetts was the whole package deal.

Near the end of my senior year of high school I was itching to leave for college. I knew where I was going to school, AP testing was over with and, to be quite frank, I just wanted to be out of Maine. I felt that I had outgrown my hometown, Lewiston, and the people in it.

As wonderful as the summer was, it came to an end. As the summer days were winding down, I was having second thoughts about leaving Maine. That past summer showed me how simple life was for me, and I was not quite ready to give that lifestyle up yet. The thought of living more than 100 miles away from my friends and family made me heartsick.

As move-in day for college came, I was really having second thoughts. I just wanted summer to start over and I wanted to relive all of my memories I made two months ago.

As my parents were loading up the car, reality hit me: I was leaving my family, my city, my friends and my life.

During the time of my arrival at Merrimack College, there were so many emotions flowing through my mind. I was excited to start my new academic journey, I was sad to leave my old life behind and I was nervous about my unknown future.

After a few days at being at my new home, I felt comfortable, I felt settled and I felt happy.

As I write this, I am in my second month at being at my school, and it is safe to say that I love it here at Merrimack College. The warm community that I live in, the friends and memories that I have made and the education I am receiving is what makes me feel at home.

Although Merrimack is my home, it is not my “home.” Yes, I technically do live in Massachusetts, but I do not consider it my home — a place where I can go to escape my hardships, a place to gather with my friends and family, a place where my worries go away. There is a difference between your college home and your hometown home. The college home is a place where you have to live, unless you commute. This is a place where you have no choice but to make the environment you live in your home.

Your home back where you live is your real home. This home is where the coffee tastes like God blessed it, and the scrambled eggs your mom makes actually taste like real eggs.

The shopping trips and the L.L. Bean Boot picture in Freeport, the colossal lobster rolls from Captain Jack’s in Naples, the trips to Wallingford’s Orchard to get apple cider doughnuts, and my favorite, Forage Market on Lisbon Street in Lewiston (which makes the most life-changing bagels) — these are a few components of Maine that make me cherish my home state.

Take a trip to Acadia, go spend a ridiculous amount of money at a five-star restaurant in Portland, and most importantly, spend quality time with your family in the great state of Maine. This state is all about community, family and friends and the quality of life. And now that I live in Massachusetts, I miss everything about my home state.

So for all you Mainers out there, do not take the good ol’ Pine Tree State for granted. Appreciate the four seasons it gives you, even if you loathe the winter season. Go eat a red hot dog and take time to reflect on yourself, your family, and the one-of-a-kind state of Maine.

Maria D’Auria is a freshman in college. She graduated from Lewiston High School in 2016.

Maria D’Auria

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