dear new jersey


collage: anastasia kopf

Dear New Jersey, 

I miss you. I miss the salty smell of the ocean air combined with the smell of the boardwalk baking in the sun on July mornings. I miss the squawking seagulls and the sound of the waves crashing in the distance. I miss the Wawa on the corner. I miss the divine taste of a fresh B.E.C. bagel (bacon, egg and cheese, for all you Ohio folks) on a Sunday morning. I miss driving with friends with no destination in mind just to end up at our favorite ice cream place, Jersey Freeze. I miss the crisp, steaming pizza fresh from the oven. All of these simple pleasures are what make New Jersey so memorable, but my high school self could not wait to get away. I have grown to appreciate the Garden State to its core. After all, it was all that I knew for 18 years of my life. I really want to yell at my younger self for constantly saying that she hated New Jersey because ever since being in Ohio, I have come to realize all that is so great about my home state. Maybe it was the stress of high school, or the desire to grow up and go to college that made me loathe you, Jersey. I guess I felt trapped by a state I had spent my whole life in. So, New Jersey, I apologize for all the hate I gave you as a teenager because I still get homesick, so there must be something that makes you so special. 


As a “Jersey Girl” born and raised, I never thought I would go to school in Ohio, let alone Kent State. After doing much research, I realized Kent had everything I wanted and more. That planted a seed in my head that caused a tree of conflict to grow until I ultimately decided to take a leap and choose Kent, a school that was eight hours from home, instead of the school that was only two hours away from home. This decision terrified me. For once in my life, I was not choosing the “safe” option. I was ecstatic, however, to be getting out of my hometown and comfort zone to pursue my dreams. I was ready to leave New Jersey and my hometown behind, as I was fed up with the same mundane routine of high school, work, dance and repeat. 


Fast forward to August of my freshman year and all of my excitement had been engulfed in a flame of terror. I was hysterically crying on the phone with my mom, as I lay in my twin extra-long bed, longing for the comfort of home. My roommate was not there for some reason, and the homesickness kicked in. I was absolutely terrified. Barely even a week into the school year and I was already regretting my decision. Thoughts raced through my head and sent me into a downward spiral. All I could think about was how I was in the middle of Ohio on a campus that I could not even navigate yet with an overwhelming sense of loneliness. It felt as if the world was ending and this feeling of loneliness would swallow me whole. I wanted to go back to New Jersey. 


The only way I can describe homesickness is that it is like a swinging pendulum. One minute you are living your best life, but the next you are struck with feelings of emptiness and discomfort that have the power to ruin your whole day. The swinging pendulum gets slower as time goes on and there are fewer flare-ups of homesickness, but the funny thing about homesickness is that it never really goes away (at least for me, anyway). 


Feeling homesick as a freshman is so common, yet nobody really talks about it. Everybody experiences it, but they will not talk about it for fear of being embarrassed. Thankfully, my feelings of homesickness dissipated as soon as I met some new friends, and it made me realize that I was so in my head about the situation. 


The number one thing that I did to cope with feeling homesick was to keep myself busy. I rid all of those fears by getting involved in as many clubs and organizations as possible because it not only kept me occupied, but it introduced me to so many people. Between A Mag and my sorority, I had no reason to be homesick. I was creating a life for myself in Kent filled with opportunities, friends and fun, and by the second semester, I was crying because I did not want to go home for the summer. 


Another way to deal with waves of homesickness is to call home. Although it sounds counterintuitive, just hearing my family’s voices or just seeing my dog for two minutes on FaceTime always puts me in a better mood. It is like a small dose of home, without having to travel the distance. It also helps to keep in touch with friends to see what they are up to and to exchange anecdotes about school. Talking about your feelings relieves both stress and negative emotions, and I can guarantee you will feel better by the end of the call. I also keep countdowns on my phone until my flight home, as it reminds me that I will see my friends and family soon.


Despite these remedies, there are still moments to this day when my homesickness creeps back in and it can ruin my whole day. I find that the monstrous feelings of homesickness creep in at night when my mind has time to finally unwind from the stress of the day. When stress is high, it makes me crave the familiarity and comfort of home and that is when I start to feel homesick. 


As a sophomore, my feelings of homesickness are significantly less than last year, as I feel my life in Kent is more established and stable, yet I still find my eyes welling up with tears when my parents drop me off at the airport to go back to Kent, which just goes to show that it really never quite goes away. Another hard battle to face is when my friends head home for a day trip. I feel slight pangs of jealousy knowing that they have the luxury of just darting home when I have to endure a full day’s worth of travel. 


Being from New Jersey comes with many odd stereotypes, as I have come to find out. I had someone tell me they thought I would sound like the cast of “Jersey Shore” and were surprised I did not have an accent. I was also told by someone they expected me to be rude because that is what they heard about the culture in New Jersey. Still, people from New Jersey can be a little fiery, I will admit. I also have been asked countless times if I am Italian when in reality, I am nowhere even close. All of this is honestly funny to me, as many people in Ohio really know nothing about New Jersey. Despite all of that, I find the overall culture of Ohio to be very welcoming and kind. I have met so many amazing people here, which has made my experience thus far so much fun.


The people really do make the place, as my hometown would not be the same without a group of people that I call “Inner Circle.” (Shoutout to you guys. You know who you are!) They are one of the best parts about coming home from school, as we jump back right where we left off and always laugh until we physically cannot anymore. It is so strange to me that the friends I grew up with are now known as my “home friends” and I have to call my college friends my “school friends.” I am so grateful that I have a group of friends in both places that make me feel at home. 


Being in college is hard. Being in college as an out-of-state student who lives eight hours away is even harder. The strangest part is that when I finally do go home, all I can think about is wanting to go back to school. Being home as a college student feels like being a guest in your own home, as opposed to someone who actually lives there.


Suddenly, your childhood bedroom looks like an exhibit out of a museum with old photographs and knick-knacks that embody your childhood and high school days. It does not even feel real in some aspects, because the version of yourself that lived in that room no longer exists; It grew up. When I went home for the first time last year, I walked around my room feeling like I had just opened a time capsule. My gumball machine was covered in a layer of dust and all of a sudden I was transported back to being 8 years old. 


I remembered the day I received it as a gift and the lengths to which my parents went to surprise me with it. I remembered walking into my family room and seeing an unidentified object covered in a black trash bag and then uncovering it to reveal a gumball machine. My high-school self would walk past the gumball machine as if it were invisible every day, but my college self saw it and it reminded me of the joys of my childhood. Receiving this gift was a core memory from my childhood that I had forgotten about. Suddenly it was more than a gumball machine, but a reminder that my childhood was long over and it evoked a feeling of nostalgia so deep I almost cried. It hurts to realize that moments like these are few and far between. 


Sometimes I feel as if you do not feel like “home” anymore, New Jersey, but neither does Kent. I am left in this awkward space where nowhere truly feels like home. The truth is that both places have become my home, just surrounded by different people, places and memories. New Jersey, I appreciate you so much. You were an integral part of my childhood and I am so lucky to have experienced all of your beautiful places, people and culture. 


I will always be a “Jersey Girl” at heart, no matter where I end up. Thank you for being you, New Jersey, because now I realize that I would not have wanted to grow up anywhere else. 


With love from Ohio, 

Kayla Friedman 


P.S. I’ll be back soon 

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Hi! I’m Catie Pusateri, A Magazine’s editor-in-chief. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine.