31 vs. 2,150 Miles

by Jimmy Luckman

Graduate school has already been quit the journey, and I am only six weeks in. Although I say it has only been six weeks my graduate school experience involves more than just my academics and assistantship, it encompasses my move across the country in order expand my perspective in student affairs. While searching for graduate programs I knew that I wanted to get out of New York State, however I never truly anticipated that I would move across the country.

I am Jimmy Luckman, and I was born and raised in the small town of Lyndonville, NY. Growing up in Lyndonville was a unique experience as it is not the stereotypical New York experience. Lyndonville is in the middle of nowhere in Western New York; in fact, I lived in town and I had a cornfield in my backyard. I graduated in 2013; and my graduating class size was 49 students. My limited experience with the outside world influenced my college selection process, as I only applied to schools that where geographically near me. I ended up selecting The College at Brockport SUNY, which was the closet four-year college, being only 31 miles away from the comfort of my home.

During my undergraduate experience, I really enjoyed being involved on campus. I found myself never going home; instead, I was engaged with both the local and campus community. I made sure to take advantage of every experience, and visited home during larger breaks. Once I knew, I wanted to enter the profession of student affairs I thought that I could now leave the state, recognizing that I hardly went home and I was only 31 miles away. Having this newfound confidence allowed me to apply to programs that were out of state, which is where I came across Northern Arizona University (NAU). I graduated from The College at Brockport SUNY in 2017, majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Women & Gender Studies and African & African American Studies, with a graduating class of around 1,500 students.

After examining all of my options NAU seemed like the perfect fit for me, however the distance would be new element that I would have to navigate. Instead of being 31 miles away from home I was now going to be a whopping 2,150 miles away. Heading into the program I though the sacrifices would make up for the 2,119 miles difference between the commute from Brockport opposed to Flagstaff. I knew going into my program that I would be committed to making the most of my experience, finding 2,150 reasons why NAU would help me in terms of professional and personal development.

I now realize that it does not matter if I am 31 or 2,150 miles away from home, because no matter where I am I have to build a strong support system. Although I do see the value in selecting a graduate program that is different from your undergraduate institution, I realized that every member of my cohort is making sacrifices to be in NAU’s program. The miles away from home should not be a competition; rather it should be embraced and acknowledged knowing that different strategies might have to be implemented in order to connect back to former support systems that are no longer only 31 miles away.

Being 2,150 miles away from home makes things slightly more complicated. Currently there is a 3-hour time difference, the time to get home is typically a ten-hour journey as flights typically have layovers, and a car ride is a casual 32-hour drive. Although there are more challenges and barriers to overcome, I learned that I have to make NAU my home. I have started this process by hiking more, decorating my apartment and office, as well as making new connections that I now consider as my source of support. Although I am away from home, I look forward to the day where I graduate with my Counseling and Student Affairs master’s degree knowing that the scarifies where worth it as I transition into a full time position, with multiple transferable skills and experiences.

So how far are you willing to go?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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