I wanted to post something about this transition since the moment I left, but unfortunately, I jumped straight into work, trying to figure out where to go food shopping, and exploring the area! After graduation I traveled from NJ to TN for a NODA internship to kick off my graduate school experience in student affairs. For now, I’m going to try to remember as much as I can about the 14-hour commute, and my experience so far.
The morning I left I got about 3 hours of sleep before waking up at 3am and leaving at 4am to drive to Tennessee, which without stops, probably could have taken 12 hours, but ended up taking around 14. It was still dark out when I left, no one was on the road, and as I pulled away from the driveway I immediately started bawling. I had been sitting there for 5 minutes setting up the GPS, but when I looked up at the windows over the garage, I saw both of my parents waving from their window, sending me off. I think I cried for about a good half an hour while driving down the turnpike and towards Philly. Just having graduated college, leaving my home after being a commuter for 2 years, leaving all of my friends, leaving my boyfriend Lucas behind, and not to mention my cat who slept with me every night….. I’ll just say it was a rough drive until I got out of NJ.
The greatest part for me, I think, of the drive was being able to drive through a few big cities on the way. Philly, Baltimore, DC, and finally Knoxville. I’ve been to the first two, and I didn’t get to see much driving by the other two, but big cities just feel like home to me. That is exactly why about halfway through Virginia, I was incredibly homesick. All I could see out my car windows was grass. Grass and farms. A little out of my comfort zone, and as I’ve told Lucas a thousand times, I immediately feel the need for a convenience store when I see the country. I don’t think that I wouldn’t be able to live somewhere a little more remote, but living a few feet away from my neighbors my whole life, I actually find another family’s weekend parties that last until 3am keeping me up at night because my windows are open comforting (the reason I got only 3 hours of sleep the night before I left was for this reason, actually, and I left on a Tuesday…). My entire town at home is like that, all of the houses are close to each other, I live on a block with a dry cleaners, a convenience store, probably about 5 pizza places within walking distance (along with 2 nail salons, a barber, a Ritas, a sub shop, a Rite Aid, Shop Rite, etc), and an elementary school on each end of my street. Basically when I drove by Knoxville I got excited because there was more than road, and then driving away from it on my way to Cookeville, I was absolutely wondering what it was going to be like.
Finally at around 6:30 in the evening I arrived in front of my residence hall at Tennessee Tech. I drove in on a smaller road, passed a few churches on the way, and immediately set up my room so I could get some sleep before work in the morning. I got this ADORABLE basket of goodies to help my transition, too. Definitely felt at home right away in the residence hall, probably just because colleges always feel like home to me, but spending a night in a town where you only know the place you’re sleeping in, have no idea where the police station is, and know 0 people (not even my boss or co-workers yet) was rough.
I WILL tell you that after that first day, my homesickness faded away, it will never be gone, but there is something to say about the people here in Tennessee. They are fantastic! Southern hospitality is a real thing, and something that I have never really experienced before. Strangers will say hi to me, where around NJ/NYC people definitely stay in their personal bubbles a lot more, which I think is more of my personality. Even at the grocery store shopping women in the aisles would start talking to me as I’m staring at the frozen foods. As soon as I say that I’m not from around here it’s even a better conversation, too! One of the main reasons it feels so comfortable down here, though, is because of the people I work with. The SOA’s (Student Orientation Assistants) are some of the most friendly, knowledgeable, and devoted students I have met, not to mention the amazing people I work with in the office. Some of the other reasons I like it in Cookeville: there are 2 Sonics here as opposed to none at home, TTU discounts everywhere, their “downtown” area (I think they call it the square) is cute and has a used bookstore, and their super goodwill store has some great pickings!
So the final count:
Pros: See entire post
Cons: almost none, just no Jersey Shore!
Verdict: Love it here!