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First-Year College Students Move Away from Home

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Across the United States, many first-year college students leave home in late August and travel to their new home away from home: a college dormitory.

One such student is Jason Piccolomini of New York. This weekend he leaves his family home in Staten Island and moves into a dorm about an hour's drive away. He is off to study at Iona College, in the city of New Rochelle.

When asked, Jason told VOA he is nervous, or worried, about the move, much like most first-year college students. It will be difficult to leave his family. When he gets to Iona, Jason will meet older students who help the new arrivals move into student housing.

What they bring

In Harrisonburg, Virginia this week, music played outside dorms as long lines of cars moved slowly along the road, dropping off students at James Madison University.

The cars carried boxes and bags filled with things students will use to make dorm rooms into homes for the school year. The new arrivals bring clothing and cleaning supplies, lights for studying and pictures for the walls. Large cloths with brightly colored designs seemed to be popular for dorm room wall art this year.

Students also brought televisions, music speakers and equipment to store cold food and drinks in their rooms.

New home, new community

Jason Piccolomini will be one of almost 17 million students in U.S. college undergraduate programs this autumn. Most of them will be going to four-year publicly financed colleges or universities, notes the National Center for Education Statistics.

Courtney Ferrick is the director for residential life at Iona College. She says it plans many activities for both day and night on the school grounds.

"This will be their home," she added. "They are living here and we want them to be comfortable… and safe." About 1,300 students will live on Iona's campus, and 450 will be first-years.

"Those first three weeks are key for college students to make their community," Ferrick said. In addition to the classes, they build that community with programs like outdoor yoga, parties, trips, music events and many other activities.

A major concern for most students entering a U.S. college or university is how to pay for higher education. Jason said he earned scholarship money for his high school grades and will live in a dorm with other Honors students. He is paying for the rest with a combination of money from his family and loans he will have to pay off after he finishes college.

Jason hopes to be a sports reporter one day. His "back-up" occupation, he said, is speech pathology or occupational therapy.

"(These are) the two things I'm passionate about," he said. "I love sports and the sports world and it do love working with special needs individuals."

It is close to his heart. His brother Brandon, a year younger than him, has Down syndrome, a genetic condition that affects him physically and mentally. The two brothers "have always been super close," Jason said, and it will be difficult to leave him. Brandon is his reason to work with "special needs" children and adults.

Jason Piccolomini, left, and his brother Brandon, right, at their home in Staten Island, NY. Jason leaves for his first-year of college this weekend.
Jason Piccolomini, left, and his brother Brandon, right, at their home in Staten Island, NY. Jason leaves for his first-year of college this weekend.

Emotional… for the parents

For many families, it is difficult when their children leave for college. Jason's mother Fran Piccolomini knows this.

She spoke to VOA before her son left.

"He is my first one to fly the coop," she said. "I'm so nervous and happy and excited for him at the same time."

She shares the worries of many parents: "This is what we prepared him for, but did we prepare him enough?"

One thing she knows she needs to teach him quickly is how to wash his clothes. It is something she has always done for him.

Karin Zwolfer has already sent one child to college. Soon her younger daughter, Sarah, will attend Seattle University in Washington State.

Zwolfer says she will miss her daughter terribly, but she is "excited for the new chapter in Sarah's life."

Concerns, and hopes

Zwolfer also worries about Sarah's safety. She thinks "there are more dangers" in the modern world, compared to when she was in college. But she added that many people now recognize those dangers, and there is more security on campuses to deal with problems.

Sarah Zwolfer says she is ready to go to college. Like many first-year students, she found her roommates on a school-supported Facebook page for incoming students.

She said her older sister helped her prepare for college.

"The biggest thing that she showed me is that everyone is just as nervous as you are. So you don't have to be so concerned about what others think because they are much more accepting," she said, adding "and that will help you succeed."

Sarah is paying for college through a scholarship and money available because her father was in the U.S. military.

Sarah said her main hopes are to do well in her classes and organize her time well. That is the "big thing" she said.

Another big concern for her is stress: how much pressure will there be, and how will she deal with it? She plans to plan her time well and work on projects a little at a time.

Sarah looks forward to "digging straight into my major" area of study: psychology. She is looking forward to doing experiments and research on human behavior and the mind.

"It's really exciting," she said.

Sarah also looks forward to meeting new people.

What will she be doing before she leaves for college? Spending time with family and friends.

"To maximize the time together until we all start new chapters of our lives separately."

I'm Anne Ball.

And I'm Bryan Lynn.

Anne Ball wrote this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor. We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

First-Year College Students Away from Home

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Words in This Story

dormitory – n. a building on a school campus that has rooms where students can live

undergraduate – n. a student at a college or university who has not yet earned a degree

residential – adj. of or relating to the places where people live

comfortable – adj. producing physical comfort; allowing you to be relaxed, causing no worries, difficulty, or uncertainty

speech pathology – n. the study and treatment of speech and language problems.

occupational therapy – n. treatment for those recovering from illness that promotes healing through the performance of daily life activities..

passionate – adj. having, showing, or expressing strong emotions or beliefs

fly the coop – phrase means to leave one's home, especially the one where you grow up

chapter – n. sections in a book

maximize – v. to increase something as much as possible

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