Why I’m Telling My Little Brother Not to Go to UCI

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It’s not because I don’t love it here. This university has given me more opportunities than I could have ever imagined — the only negative being a constantly overflowing inbox — and if you told me upon my admission that I would be where I am today, I would have laughed at you. Newspaper? Research? Passing organic chemistry and genetics? Back then, I didn’t even have my driver’s license yet.

Recently, my little brother received an acceptance letter from UCI, and I told him point blank: don’t go here. Go anywhere but here. Because this school is too close to home.

I’m from Huntington Beach, and at 18, I was too afraid to leave it behind. My parents had me convinced that it was too difficult and dangerous for me to go any further than UCI. I believed them because, up until then, my experiences were limited to places within a one-mile radius, and I was always home before sundown. Unlike a lot of people at my high school, the unknown didn’t excite me; it terrified me.

Because of this, I didn’t listen to anyone who told me to go away for college. I didn’t realize that if I had chosen to go anywhere else, I would have been too far away for my parents to expect me to drive home every weekend. Living on campus wouldn’t have been an annual debate. I wouldn’t have felt like I was living half my life in my childhood and the other half in adulthood.

It only took a month of college to make me see all of this. By then, I had barely expanded my experiences past what I’d always grown up with, and I yearned to explore new places like my friends in Northern California, Indiana, Arizona and New York. And I had the curiosity and daring to go do it. But it was too late.

While “regret” is too heavy of a word to describe my feelings, I do wish I had considered my other options more carefully. For example, I only briefly considered going to UCSD, but when I visited my best friend there this past June, I thought to myself, “Did I really put this acceptance letter aside?”

Because for me, the point of college is gaining new experiences and struggling down the path to adulthood until you can confidently stand on your own. Being so close to my parents, I’ve found it difficult to do either of these. When your safety net is only half an hour away (or an hour if the 405 is especially congested), it’s easy to crawl back to it when things get rough. It’s also easy for it to reel you back in when you’ve gone too far away.

I realize that this might not be the case for everyone else, and that college comes with other meanings and goals. There are people who can still get all the experiences they want from college even while living at home. They don’t feel limited there.

But for my brother and I, who have always felt restrained by our parents, college is the perfect time for a big change. Like me, my little brother is hesitant to go far away. He doesn’t know if he can handle it. He wants to go to Berkeley to study engineering, but that would mean living on his own and doing things like cooking for himself. God knows that kid can’t do much better than rice and eggs, even if he’s starving.

I hope that he changes his mind. I hope that, when May comes, he’ll make a choice that will allow him to grow and challenge himself. I hope he won’t make the same mistake I did and make his decision based on fear. That holds true for anything. At this age, there is more in store for all of us than we can currently see. Who knows where we’ll be in a year? If we constantly shy away from the unknown, we might never reach our full potential.

Michelle Bui is a second-year biological sciences major. She can be reached at mkbui@uci.edu.

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