Vegas-Raised and UMass Made

The white snowflakes accumulated outside my dorm room window. I stared with a certain curiosity. The little bits accumulated with a pattern. First they fell. Then, they landed. And finally, they stuck.


and for some reason there’s no longer


where did it go?

i repeat it over to myself

“you wanted this

you wanted this”

You watch your feet as they have no ground beneath them

linearly- in motion

and Falling?

you try to catch your breathe

where did it go?

where did i go?

If you're an out-of-state student at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, you most definitely stopped counting how many times you’ve been asked the forever repeating question, “So, why UMass?” With all the practice, you would think you would get better at answering the question, but instead you just stand there wanting to ask the same thing in return.

There are about 22,000 undergraduate students at UMass, and I think the majority are here for the same reason--a desire to learn something.

When the college application process started during my senior year of high school, I wanted nothing more than to get out of Vegas. I told myself I was done with the years of alcoholic hand-holding, a drive for money instead of knowledge and the constant state of the dry desert.

In my head, it was all going to be simple. I was going to move far away and finally have a life with the four seasons, thoughtful minds and plenty of opportunities to become the best version of myself.

It surprised me when this life I had imagined didn’t come so easy.


you are rooted in the small town with too many people

you’re just noticing your feet are sore

they say “it’s adjusting”

your breathing gets heavy

you tell yourself that’s it


just getting stronger


you look at the leaves a lot

and maybe your friends think that’s strange

But really, how don’t they see this?

you want to yell at them

This is beautiful!

isn’t this beautiful?

they laugh

“The leaves aren’t as pretty as last years”

you sigh

How don’t they see this?

The first time it snowed I was inundated with a type of excitement that only comes with first experiences.

First concert.

First road trip.

First roller coaster ride.

I called my roommate as I headed to my first class of the day.

“Niamh, it’s snowing,” I said shivering with a grin slapped on my face. I heard her giggle.

The first semester wasn’t easy. I pretended like it was so I could say to my family that I really could do it. Naturally, though, I had many doubts. Am I cut out for this? Do I belong here? Could I possibly be good enough?

Before coming to Massachusetts, I was often warned about a “cultural shift,” which seemed strange to me. How different could each state really be? While I recognized more similarities between Las Vegas and Massachusetts, I noticed many differences as well.

I was coming from the 44th ranked state in education to the first.

I was transitioning from a place deemed the “city of sin” to a place deemed a center of “east-coast intellectualism.”

I was exchanging dry stillness for the harsh fast-paced.

There were times I let these distinctions get the best of me, allowing myself to think I couldn’t compete with my bright peers or adjust to a very different mentality. I often questioned if it was possible for one’s own hands to freeze off.

But going to UMass was a choice I made early on, so even with all of its challenges, I decided to stick with it to see where it would take it me.


you step outside

the snow is melting

laughing with a friend

you feel


look at colors

breath in the moment

it’s not always so simple

keep going

It’s not always so fun

keep going

It’s not always so beautiful

keep going

there’s still the Falling

and the Landing

but maybe

you’re starting to Stick

Transitioning to college can be a weird, lonely and frustrating experience. It is definitely not easy trying to navigate oneself into a world so new and unfamiliar. What I have learned from this experience, though, is that it’s okay revel in that terrible feeling for a while. Acknowledge that this isn’t easy, that it’s okay to ask for help, but none of it necessarily means one doesn’t belong. For now, I’m still trying to learn and find out who I am in relation to the places I have come from and the places I will go.

I may be Vegas-raised, but as of right now, I am also UMass-made.

Email Caeli at, or follow her on Twitter @caeli_chesin.

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Michaela Chesin

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