When Becca Schmitt, a junior business management major from Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, first started applying to colleges, she decided that she wanted to go to a school out of state and somewhere different than where others were attending. Montclair State University seemed to be the perfect distance at only two and a half hours away. Schmitt, like other out-of-state students on campus, has slowly become used to being one of the few scattered out-of-state students among New Jersey natives.
Out-of-state students are virtually nonexistent at Montclair State, but these students use their newfound independence to make the university their new home. They’ve gotten used to staying on campus on the weekends, making friends from the ground up and answering the question, “What are you doing here?”
According to the Office of Institutional Research at Montclair State, 5.8 percent of students enrolled at Montclair State are from out of state, which equals about 1,180 people among the more than 20,000 students currently attending the university.
The out-of-state students blend into the crowd of New Jersey residents, unknown to the in-state majority that these students had to grow up without diners around every corner and attendants pumping their gas. Meanwhile, Schmitt grew up surrounded by expansive fields and mushroom farms.
“When I tell people I’m from Pennsylvania, it’s an ordeal,” said Schmitt. “People are just so shocked and confused as to why I came here, and I don’t get it. It’s such an amazing school.”
“I’m such a homebody, so being here made me go out of my comfort zone. It’s made me stronger,” Schmitt said.
Jordanna Maziarz, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions, said that over the years, the university has found new ways to improve the recruitment process of sending representatives to high schools in different states. “We’ve added more places this year,” Maziarz said, including visits to Washington D.C. and “expanding and refocusing in bigger territories” like Pennsylvania and New York.
Serenna Anan, a sophomore anthropology major from Littleton, New Hampshire, recalls an interesting experience in class when the professor went around the room and asked everyone where they were from. “I said, ‘I’m from New Hampshire,’ and my professor started to ask me where in the state I was from, and then he said, ‘Nevermind. I don’t know New Hampshire.’”
Anan is a transfer student originally from Florida, so the six-hour drive from Littleton to Montclair State is a breeze in comparison to the commute to Florida. Her family nearby in New Jersey made the adjustment easier for her, too
Out-of-state students develop certain skills like being able to explain accurately where they live based on major cities. “I’ll always go off of Boston and say I’m three and a half hours north of that. You gotta pick landmarks,” Anan said.
Amber Pettaway is a senior double majoring in sociology and women and gender studies who learned about Montclair State from family in New Jersey. Pettaway is from Mount Airy, Maryland, which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive to Montclair State. “I felt good about coming here,” Pettaway said, after she took a tour of the campus.
Now a senior, she lives off campus and has access to her car, but it was quite an adjustment for her when she was without transportation her freshman year.
“When I first came here, I had a roommate, but she ended up dropping out before the semester started,” Pettaway said. “So, for two weeks, I was alone in this giant dorm room. It was kind of weird not knowing anyone on campus. I was basically shell-shocked and thrown into an area I didn’t know about. But, it gave me time to figure out who I actually was as a person without those people from back home still influencing me.”
Everyone she knew went to the University of Maryland, which she affectionately calls “high school part two.”
The journey home is definitely an experience for any out-of-state student wanting to go home for break or even a weekend, if they’re lucky. Anan normally never goes home for the weekends or short breaks like Easter, except for one special occasion.
“Last semester, my friend got married in October,” Anan recalled. “I took the train, and then a series of buses and then a car. It was insane. The buses got me to Massachusetts where my sister goes to school, and then my dad drove down to pick us up. Then it was another three-hour car ride. It was a 14-hour travel day.”
There are also a lot of perks to being an out-of-state student, including getting sent care packages for holidays, birthdays or just when parents are thinking of you. “I love them,” said Schmitt. “They make my day when I get them. And, it makes it more special, since I don’t go home as often. It’s a little bit of home.”
Sometimes you don’t know they’re coming which makes the best surprise on a seemingly normal day. “I got a Valentine’s Day care package, and I didn’t really expect it,” Pettaway said. The long walk or shuttle ride to central receiving is always worth it.