Ellie Steen is a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) studying Marketing and Advertising. Originally from a small suburb outside of Boston, Massachusetts, an academic scholarship and the beautiful beaches of the Gulf of Mexico brought her down south to Fort Myers, Florida to attend FGCU. She has gained experience in the marketing field through several internships from social media marketing for Aerosmith at PAID Inc., to coordinating seminars at Miromar Design Center, and most recently as the one-and-only Marketing Intern for a Top 100 Accounting firm.
In her free time, Ellie can be found on the beach daydreaming about traveling to foreign places. She enjoys shopping at local boutiques, trying new foods, and living a healthy lifestyle. Ellie is very motivated, goal-oriented, creative and adorably neurotic in her own way. She is always looking for new opportunities and adventure and won’t settle for anything less than success.
Four years ago, I was a senior in high school applying to college. I knew two things: 1.) I wanted to study Marketing and 2.) I wanted to go to school out-of-state. What I didn’t know: this was a choice that was going to ultimately flip my life upside down. Growing up in a Boston suburb, surrounded by my closest family and friends and the familiarity of New England culture, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and go on an adventure. Further down south, the Sunshine State was calling my name. Little did I know, it would soon become my new home.
When making the choice to go to college out-of-state there are several questions to ask yourself—are you ready to let go of everything you’ve ever known? Does the idea of it give you butterflies, but scares you more than anything at the same time? Can you financially afford to go out-of-state? That last question may be enough to scare anyone out of the idea: out-of-state tuition, living expenses, and airfare. College is expensive enough as is, why tack on the extra zeros? —Because your gut is telling you to go for it and there are these lovely things called scholarships. Don’t let finances be the reason you miss out on the adventure of a lifetime. Even while attending college, you can still continue to apply for scholarships and grants—it worked for me!
Without my scholarship, I never would have even heard of Florida Gulf Coast University, a newly established and relatively small school in Fort Myers, Florida. If the name didn’t give it away, FGCU is located in Southwest Florida, just 15 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico (and a 27 hour car ride from Massachusetts). The morale of the story: research scholarships and apply. You can afford to go to school out-of-state.
However, scholarships don’t typically provide plane tickets to go home for every break, holiday, birthday, etc. When you go to school out-of-state, you have to come to terms with the fact that you will lose touch with even your closest friends. You have to be okay with the idea of maybe only seeing family and friends a couple of times a year. However, just because you’re part of a close-knit family, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to handle living in a different state.
When making the move, you have to adapt to your new environment. The first few months of my freshman year were complete culture shock, there’s no other way to describe it. I know some out-of-state students transferred back home after the first semester. Going to school out-of-state isn’t for everyone. There were days where I felt lost (literally) and alone. I missed everything that was “home”. But, after that initial stage of shock, I made friends! I did well in school, learned my way around, and eventually got a job—creating an entirely new life for myself.
When you make the decision to go out-of-state, know that your life could potentially change more than you ever imagined. When I said goodbye to my friends and family the weekend before freshman year started, I had every intention of coming back home after my four years of college. Today, I can’t fathom the thought of moving back home after graduation. I have embraced the Floridian culture and have fallen head over heals in love with Florida, Fort Myers, the school, the weather, the way of life, and yes, a guy too. Will I ever move back home? Maybe, maybe not—it would be pointless to try to guess considering how off beam I was last time. That is what this experience has taught me: always keep your mind and heart open to new opportunities, because you never know where your path could lead.