What I Learned Driving Cross-Country to College

On August 18, I departed my home of Beaverton, Oregon in a van filled with all my belongings, buckets of hand sanitizer, and a surplus of cleaning supplies.

By Ellie Younger September 15, 2020

I set out for a new school year unlike any I’d ever had before – filled with anxiety about the drive, COVID, and leaving the people I love during a crisis. Throughout the week-long drive, I found myself learning and having more fun than I had ever expected.

Never underestimate the joy old hobbies can bring.

Somewhere in Eastern Oregon, I began reading Harry Styles fanfiction in an effort to entertain myself. This allowed me to reflect on what I loved as a kid, and showed that my youthful spirit still lived within me. It felt like a pre-college reminder to never truly grow up, never forget where I came from, and to never underestimate the joy old hobbies can bring.

We are a part of a big and beautiful world.

While driving through Yellowstone, I was reminded of just how small I am. Surrounded by forests, mountains, wildlife, and rivers, I felt like I was a piece of something much bigger than myself. I witnessed the earth’s beauty, reinstating the importance of fighting for it. I passed numerous individuals along the way, reminding me about the necessity of staying safe and healthy for each other.

State your boundaries, and hold fast to them, unwavering.

The bison in Wyoming stood their ground unapologetically, demonstrating a lesson I needed to learn. I might not be quite as angry, or physically strong as a bison, but their small steps reminded me to be mindful, and their fierce stares helped me head into the semester prioritizing my own boundaries regarding COVID safety.

Give yourself credit, and celebrate every small success.

After sitting in the car for up to 13 hours a day, with occasional stops on the side of the road, I began to realize just how much I could handle. I rewarded myself for every piece of homework I did, and everything I accomplished along the way – even if it was just looking out the window lost in thought.

In general, I admired the surrounding beauty, experiencing firsthand the learning that can occur from travel rather than only inside of the classroom. I reflected on my gratitude for my family who prioritized my health to such a level that they were willing to help me drive cross-country in order to avoid an airplane. I prepared myself for the coming year, and wore masks across America. In this difficult year it is important to find new perspectives with which to approach things. Our school year is unconventional, but hidden within this is new experiences, lessons to be learned, and things to discover about ourselves.

Ellie Younger

is a freshman in the School of Nursing, majoring in nursing and minoring in global health. When she is not studying or working as a medical record reviewer she can be found reading, playing IM soccer, or passionately educating midwesterners about the proper way to pronounce Oregon (Or-gin).