Approximately 53 percent of Linfield students come from Oregon, but the rest travel much farther. Senior Dulce Kersting’s Iowa hometown is 1,862 miles from campus, and if senior Tyler Huynh wanted to drive to his North Carolina home, it would take him 45 hours. Sophomore Sara Peterson faces a 27-hour drive to her home in Little Falls, Minn. Junior Kate Koten must drive 2,142 miles to reach her hometown of Hinsdale, Ill. What make them come all the way out to Linfield? Read on to find out.
A long way from home
“It’s a long trip home,” Kersting said. “Six to eight hours to fly and about 35 hours to drive.”
Unlike the many Linfield students who can head home for the weekend, Kersting said that she only sees her family a few times each year because she lives in Iowa.
“I’ve stayed in Mac the last two summers but [had] gone home at the beginning of June and the end of August,” she said.
Kersting usually flies home for Christmas, but her Thanksgivings are spent in Seattle with her father, who moved there just after her freshman year.
“Even though we have a week for Thanksgiving Break now, it isn’t any easier to go home,” Kersting said. “It’s too close to Christmas to pay for the extra plane flight and deal with the hassle of traveling during the holidays.”
Although Kersting can’t go home on weekends, that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t stay in touch with her family.
“I talk to my mom every day,” she said. “And I probably talk to my dad at least twice a week. Mom comes to visit me during the semester, and I go home on breaks.”
Huynh said that he hasn’t been home since Spring Break of his freshman year.
“I usually stay in Oregon for breaks and visit family,” he said. “This Thanksgiving, I’ll be with my grandma in Salem.”
While some students find it difficult to stay at Linfield for extended periods of time, Huynh said that it is normal for him.
“I miss the home cooking, but it doesn’t really affect me much,” he said.
However, Huynh said that it is harder now than when he was a freshman.
“My first year, everything was new,” he said. “New experiences; new people. Now, I start to look back and miss it.”
Peterson feels the opposite. She said that as a freshman, she called home frequently.
“Any time I failed a test or something bad happened, I’d call my mom,” she said. “Now, I call and sit down and talk to my parents about once a week, but I call about little things less often than before.”
Koten said that she is lucky to have supportive parents. Without them, the distance would be harder to cope with.
“They are always willing to Skype or chat on the phone,” she said.
Although Koten is only able to go home twice during the school year and for the summer, she said she feels lucky.
“Some people aren’t even allowed that much,” she said.
Koten said that she struggles with being away when times are hard.
“I don’t like it when something is happening at home, and I can’t be there to help,” she said.
She said she gets homesick when she is ill, but overall, she loves Oregon.
“I am so glad I made the decision I did,” she said.
Peterson said that studying far from home is difficult sometimes but that it has been good for her.
“Other students never had the chance to find out who they are on their own,” she said. “I had to start fresh in Oregon without knowing anyone.”
Searching for a fresh start
A fresh start is a common theme for out-of-state students and one of the primary reasons they start searching for a college far from home. Their search is made more difficult, however, by the fact that Linfield doesn’t recruit in certain states.
“Counselors from the Admissions Office travel to Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Utah,” Senior Associate Director of Admissions Kristie Patterson said.
She said that many out-of-state students, who didn’t learn about Linfield from a targeted search, heard about Linfield and choose to call or apply.
Peterson’s search was specific. She grew up in central Minnesota, and although her parents pushed her to look at schools near home, she started looking out of state.
“I searched online for places with D-III tennis teams, good science programs and small campuses,” she said. “I had an inkling that I’d like to go the Pacific Northwest.”
Peterson said that in the Northwest, she had only ever visited Seattle, but she said she heard the Portland area was pretty.
“When I flew to Linfield to visit, I thought the campus was gorgeous,” she said. “I talked to the tennis coach and really liked her, and I met [Assistant Professor of Biology] Anne Kruchten and talked to her.”
She said that her parents wanted her to stay closer.
“When my sisters wanted to go to college out of state, they said ‘Oh good, you should go!’ But when I wanted [to], they said ‘You should look at schools in Minnesota!’”
She said that she heard a lot about Linfield and its community when she visited.
“I just got a vibe here,” she said.
Koten, who grew up in Hinsdale, Ill., felt the same way when she and her family first flew into Seattle and took a road trip through Oregon.
“I fell in love with the dry summer, delicious pine scent and stunning scenery,” she said. “It was that summer I knew, some day, I would live there.”
She first heard about Linfield when her great aunt, a high school counselor, helped her find several schools that matched her interests.
“She made a list for me: schools out West, schools in the Midwest and one out East. My parents were pushing for Wittenberg University in Ohio, but I wanted out of the Midwest,” Koten said.
Huynh, from Hickory, N.C., also heard about Linfield from family members.
“My aunt and uncle went to Linfield,” he said. “We always visited Oregon, so when I told my mom, she just said, ‘If you want to go to Oregon, that’s fine.’”
Kersting grew up in Ames, Iowa. She, like Peterson, searched specifically for a school similar to Linfield.
“I knew that I was looking for a private, liberal arts school in a small town,” she said. “Everything that Linfield is.”
She said that she searched online and then took a road trip with her father to visit her top schools.
“I fell in love with Linfield,” she said.
That is a common reaction for visiting students, Peterson said.
“Students are attracted to the kind of education and community that Linfield offers,” Patterson said. “The friendly atmosphere and connection that students have to the faculty is something that prospective students pick up on when they visit.”
That atmosphere made it easier for these students to feel at home from their hometowns despite the long distance.
Oregon vs. home
If Peterson could go back and do it again, she said that she wouldn’t change anything.
“It’s almost like studying abroad,” she said. “I’m just in a different state instead of a different country.”
She said that many people are surprised to learn that she is from Minnesota.
“Everyone asks ‘Why are you here?’” She said. “They always want to try the Minnesota accent, and they are disappointed that I don’t have an accent.”
Kersting said that many people don’t know where her home is.
“They think that Iowa is in the south,” she said. “It’s just silly. Didn’t you pass fifth grade geography? I know where your state is; why don’t you know where mine is?”
Overall, though, she is happy in Oregon.
“I’ve never been so homesick that I thought about transferring,” she said.
However, she said that the distance can be difficult sometimes.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more homesick,” she said. “I’ve learned to appreciate home.”
Kersting said that this is one of the advantages of attending a school far from home.
“When I left home, I was sick of Iowa,” she said. “I graduated with the same people I went to kindergarten with, and I was ready to leave.”
It has also made her more self-reliant, Kersting said.
She said that one of her high school friends came to visit her once and watched her go grocery shopping, do her own laundry and manage her own money. Her friend was surprised by how Kersting’s maturity.
“I probably wouldn’t have learned that if I had stayed home,” Kersting said. “I might still be working for my mom like I did in high school.”
Moving to Oregon has changed Koten drastically, she said, but in a good way.
“Ever since I stepped on campus, I felt totally comfortable and in my element,” she said. “I knew I would be successful here, and I would love it.”
She said that she is a lot more outgoing than she used to be and more outdoor-oriented.
“It is difficult to guess what I would have been like if I had stayed, but, so far, I feel good about the kind of person I’m becoming,” she said. “I’m so glad I made the decision I did.”
Huynh said that the distance has made him more independent.
“I have to feed myself and take care of myself,” he said. “I have no parents to take me out to dinner.”
The hardest part for him was not leaving his family in North Carolina, but leaving his friends.
“It’s hard to stay in contact with them,” he said. “Family is always there for you, but friends are harder. I’ve learned to let go.”
All four students have moved far from home and left some pieces of their lives behind, but they say that they have received much from their Linfield experience, and none of them regret it. In fact, all four plan to continue spreading their horizons outside their home states after college, either in Ore. or in a different state that is waiting to be explored.
by Rachel Mills/Freelancer
Rachel Mills can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.