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Leaving Long Beach Without Leaving Home

A graduating senior’s journey to recreate the feeling of her hometown as she experiences college.

Hardly any of you know me, and I don’t know any of you for the most part. Well, let me introduce myself.

My name is Riley. I am graduating from Wilson High School in June, and just like many other Long Beach kids, I have played the full range of sports, but I stuck with golf.

I know you’re wondering why you clicked on this article. Let me tell you, whether you are in high school right now, just graduated, just came to Long Beach, or are the parent of a local kid, you think about college. Maybe you think about where to go, if you made the right choice, or if your child made the right choice. No matter how you think about college, you should still know the importance of Long Beach throughout the journey, and that is what I am here to tell you. So, sit back, scroll through, and enjoy updates on one local Long Beach girl and her journey of going off to college.

When thinking about college, it is pretty easy to get overwhelmed by the idea of making the wrong choice. We are barely adults (if we are even adults), yet everyone expects us to make a decision about the next four years of our lives within roughly three months. Three. Months. Semesters are longer than that! So how on earth are we supposed to trust our decision? How are we supposed to know that where we pick is going to be the right place for us academically, socially, and in some cases, athletically?

Coming from Long Beach makes every other city pale in comparison. Yet still, a lot of us flock out of Long Beach for college. Whether we are going to UCLA, Columbia, or the few like me at the University of Oklahoma, we are still trying to recreate the feeling of Long Beach.

You know how when you step off of a plane at Long Beach Airport, or you see the freeway signs for “Long Beach Freeway,” and you just get that little kid glee because you know you’re home? Oddly enough, you get that same feeling when you step foot on the campus that is meant for you.

For me, I felt it four years ago when I first visited OU. Everything just seemed to be the right balance of history and the modern era, just like Long Beach. Now I denied for years that OU was my home, kind of like how most of us are just itching to leave Long Beach. But the fact of the matter is that your home is wherever you feel the most connections.

In Long Beach, the joke is that we live in the biggest small town you will ever visit. Walking down Second Street, going to the Pike, going to the Bay, you are bound to see someone that you know. We are a city of almost half a million people, yet we are destined to see someone we know no matter where we are. While this idea is both terrifying and a little bit comforting, it makes you wonder how college can be like that.

Honestly, at this point, I can not tell you how college allows you to recreate your Long Beach connections. But stay tuned and keep checking back as I document the process of transforming Norman, Oklahoma into my own Long Beach sanctuary.


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