Column by Katie Kocijanski

Photo by Robin Weinstein
Photo by Robin Weinstein

It never ceases to amaze me how fast time has gone by since I first started college. So much has changed, the 18-year-old me would never have thought I would end up at SUNY New Paltz, happier than I have been.

Almost four years ago now, I graduated from Monticello High School. I thought I had everything figured out. I had decided to go to SUNY Albany to pursue an accounting degree. Coming from a small town, I thought what I needed was the city life. Albany was only two hours from home and I had family in the area, it seemed perfect. All of this ran through my mind before I went off to school in August.

I quickly learned Albany was not for me. The campus was too big and overwhelming. I found the atmosphere was not what I thought it would be. The class sizes were too big. There were 500 students in my nutrition class and 250 in my microeconomics class! You were merly a number to the professors – attendance for the class was taken through a remote control. I was miserable. I was terribly homesick and missed my family. All of my friends were enjoying college and adjusting fine – I felt so alone.

These feelings of increased anxiety and sadness had been building up inside of me for a long time. I called my parents the day after they dropped me back off after October break to tell them that I was leaving Albany and running away. I was not in the right state of mind when I said those things and was willing to do just about anything to leave. I’ve never seen my parents as angry and upset with me as they were that day, not knowing what was to come. I packed up my things and left my dorm.

Shortly after that, I was diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety by a mental health professional. It all made sense now; I needed help and was going to get it. Throughout this entire process, my parents and sister were amazing. They supported me in the best way and were very understanding. What I needed the most was them, my family. During those three months I was home, I went on medication for my anxiety and depression and went back into therapy.   My parents and sister put up with a lot during that time, and I owe them everything. They were my support system and still are to this day. No words can describe how grateful I am to them for everything they did and continue to do for me.

The following January, I enrolled at a local community college and returned to an old job I had had in high school. I got my life back and continued treatment for my depression and learned how to manage it. I met my best friend, who quickly became an important part of my life, and continues to be to this day. By December 2010, I had graduated and was accepted to New Paltz. When I came this past January, I quickly realized I had found the place I needed to be all along. My roommates were wonderful and I was able to transfer with my best friend from my community college.

I was able to reunite with a friend from high school as well. She was a student at the School of Business with me and happened to be a statistics tutor. Reconnecting with her was such a great thing for me – she continues to give me support when I need it the most to this day.

In the end, I found where I needed to be. The choices I’ve made and obstacles I have encountered led me to the place of happiness I am at today. Albany was not the place for me, but it made me the person I am today. For the first time in a long time, I’ve realized I am right where I need to be—here in New Paltz.