OPINION: Coming home for the first time

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When I heard the word “homecoming,” I used to solely think of my immediate family, but as an out-of-state student, my family is farther away than the average K-State student’s. After more than two years in Manhattan, I have a second family, and in this one I have more than 25,000 relatives.

Many colleges pride themselves on how their schools are like a family, but I never took this seriously until I became a Wildcat. When I came for my senior-visit day in high school, I could feel something different on campus.

After a day of touring, my parents and I went to dinner to have “the talk.” The second the waiter walked away with our orders, I asked my mom and dad what they thought, and I will never forget their responses. “We really didn’t want to like it… but we honestly have nothing negative to say about this school,” my mom said. Then my dad added, “We can really see you here. This is your school.”

Convincing my parents to let their daughter move nine and a half hours away for school was not an easy task. While the academics, athletics and atmosphere impressed my parents, they were most affected by the community of our college town. Dean of Students Pat Bosco could not say enough about the K-State family, and my parents believed him. Bosco sealed the deal for them.

Our faculty and students are not the only ones who believe the K-State campus is special. College-feedback websites, such as Rate My Professor, Niche and Noodle, consistently bring up the feeling of family, and these sites tend to contain some candid opinions of students.

In their 2016 edition of “The Best 380 Colleges,” the Princeton Review ranked K-State No. 4 for happiest students and No. 6 for best quality of life. I don’t know about you, but when I hear that the Princeton Review ranked us in the top 10 for happiness, I know that our presence as one big happy K-State family is not just in our heads.

According to the Office of Registrar, about 7,000 of K-State’s students are non-residents, while nearly 17,000 are Kansas residents, and besides the minor dip in overall enrollment this year, it has been increasing every year. The K-State family is not limited to Kansas; our family is across the country. It is not only current students, but alumni as well. Every alum I have met has taken genuine interest in me, and they have all offered to connect and help me in any way they can.

This is what is means to be a member of a family, and this is what our 2015 Homecoming theme is all about: a century of coming home. I call Manhattan my home now. I know it hurts my mom’s heart every time I say it, but it has become my natural instinct; however, to make her feel better I let myself call it my home away from home instead.

When you mention Kansas, the first thing many people think of is “The Wizard of Oz,” and I could not identify with it more, especially in regards to finding your home. After all, Judy Garland was from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, but Dorothy was from Kansas.

There is no place like home, and there is no place like K-State. Welcome home Wildcats. (And beat Oklahoma!)

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