The vastness of the western United States, specifically California, can actually limit our view. Each time I speak with high school juniors about college choices, I hear the aforementioned oxymoron. The diverse geography of California and distance of Northern California to Southern California can entice students to think they’re making a big move away from home. I know. I did that move myself—from Sacramento to San Diego for college—convinced that I was taking a humongous leap away from home, not recognizing the contradiction that I was comforted by the idea of living in the same state. My other top college choice was near Seattle, Washington. In reality, Seattle is only 1.5 hours of car travel more than driving to San Diego, but the idea of moving two states away, was too much of a mental obstacle for my 17-year old self. So, I can fully empathize with today’s California high school students, who are seeking colleges in their home state.
But, by the time I was ready for graduate school, some place new beckoned. I had visited the East Coast for the first time one summer after college. During the two-week trip, I visited seven states, covering no more driving distance than from Sacramento to San Diego; all my geographic references were blown to smithereens. I was hooked. When Harvard admitted me, I packed up and moved to Cambridge.
The education of moving across the country showed me the narrowness of my view as a native Californian. Yet, today, explanations of my previous geographic bias may not impress the students I counsel, since many have only lived in California. I understand their nervousness about leaving their home state, especially since learning that 90% of California residents choose to stay in California for college; they’re not (and I wasn’t) alone. Yet, in the expanse of the West, heed caution to not become myopic.