On Campus

Crossing the country for freedom

Students moving away for university often cite more freedom as a motivator - but what does this really mean?

I write this post from Tofino, B.C., a small surf town on the beautiful west coast of Vancouver Island. I am on a final family holiday before moving across the country to start university at the end of August. One might reasonably assume that I would seize this opportunity to spend quality time with my dad and younger brother, enjoying their soon-to-be-rare company and our incredible surroundings. And yet, this simply hasn’t been the case.

I find myself almost constantly caught up by thoughts of my impending departure and thus very much removed from the present moment. This absence from the moment necessarily impedes my enjoyment of my family and the experience as a whole; obviously not the best way to spend my final days with them, but perhaps excusable given the relative enormity of the change ahead.

This has all lead me to consider what exactly it is about moving away to university that so excites me (and pretty much every other college-bound friend I know). What, truly, are the differences between living with and without your parents, and why are they so appealing?

The obvious answer, of course, is more freedom, but this too begs further investigation. Freedom to do what? At this point, most somewhat reasonable 18-year-olds I know enjoy the trust of their parents enough that they are allowed to do pretty much everything they want. So again, freedom to do what?

A concept that keeps coming up in discussion with fellow soon-to-be- as well as current university students is a desire to re-invent oneself. Of course, our parents aren’t forbidding us from doing this now, but the freedom that comes with moving away to a place where you don’t know (many) people makes re-inventing oneself a lot easier.

Before I go any further, I think it’s important to clarify that a desire to “re-invent yourself” need not carry a negative association with low self-esteem or an explicit dissatisfaction with your current self. To me, it represents a recognition that any negative behavioral trends or patterns are much easier to correct (at the same time as putting new emphasis on those traits you like) when surrounded with people who don’t already expect you to behave a certain way – and this is a good thing. This is what I think that notion of freedom ultimately means – a fresh start – and this is pretty exciting.

So as the countdown to move-in day begins, I’ll keep this in mind as I try to stay present and enjoy the last days with my family, friends, and old self.

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