The next chapter of our love story begins when Jake and I entered college. If you missed them, please check out Chapter I and Chapter II.
After saying goodbye to Jake at the airport in Charlotte, I had a few days to mentally prepare myself for starting school in Columbia, SC. I headed to the University of South Carolina both excited and terrified. I was eager to make new friends (which had always come fairly easy to me) and to have a fresh start. I would miss Jake, but I had a feeling that I was going to love college.
My first few days were a blur. I met a lot of new people and did my best to make friends, but I soon found that I did not fit in. The large group of friends from high school that I once took for granted, was very hard to come by in college. I felt like an outsider and very uncomfortable in my own skin. Not to mention, I missed Jake terribly. Eventually, I made a small group of girlfriends that I was able to open up to and be my (weird) self with.
I was very shaken and doubted myself a lot during my freshman year. I was on the phone with Jake almost every single night. Usually, about once every 3-4 months we were able to visit one another. I will never forget how I felt when I first went to stay with Jake in Cortland, NY. The excitement that I had was beyond anything that I'd ever experienced.
During our Freshman year of college, Jake's parents made the decision to move from Upstate New York to Wisconsin, where they were originally from and where all of their extended family lives. I think that this made being away from me harder on Jake, because he no longer had the comfort of his family being close by. Jake decided to transfer to the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee for his sophomore year. This made our distance door-to-door about 1,000 miles.
I visited Jake in Milwaukee in the fall of our sophomore year, and we talked more about moving closer together. We wanted to make a smart decision and did not want to jump into something that we might regret. I decided to get serious about transferring to a school in the Midwest. It was certainly a risk, but one that I was willing to take.
I have the most supportive parents in the world, and though they were saddened by the idea of me living so far away, they wanted to see me happy. I also think that they felt that Jake was the real deal. Ultimately, I decided to look at schools in Chicago. My dad took me to visit the city and I fell in love. I liked the idea of Jake and I still having separate lives, and time to be independent, but to be close enough to see each other when we wanted to.
I was accepted into a few different schools in the Midwest, and eventually made the decision to transfer to Loyola Chicago in the spring semester of my sophomore year. This would put Jake and I about 1.5- 2hrs away depending on traffic. To some people, this would still be considered long distance, but the thought of being able to hop in the car to see each other on the weekends was unimaginable to us. I had a tough transition at first, but overall, I loved my time in Chicago. I lived in a house with six other women (yes, it was as crazy as it sounds) and we learned a lot from each other.
Jake and I spent almost every weekend together and grew closer than ever. We both faced some difficult circumstances during our time in the midwest. My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer and Jake and I both lost close family members. This motivated me to try to live life to its fullest and to go for an opportunity that I may have normally passed up. I decided to study abroad in Rome, Italy during the first semester of my senior year.
Jake and I were apart for 4.5 months and spent a lot of time on Skype. My poor father paid for some seriously expensive international cell phone bills. I traveled throughout Europe and learned a great deal about myself while living abroad. When I returned from Italy, Jake and I agreed that we never wanted to live apart for a long period of time again.
Right before I left for Europe, my sister found out that her and my brother-in-law were pregnant. Our niece, Adelaide, was born a few weeks before my college graduation. Holding Addie for the first time made me certain that I would be moving back to Charlotte after graduation.
I had hoped that Jake would move to North Carolina with me, as I think we both felt confident that we wanted to spend our lives together. However, there were a lot of details to work out and it would take a serious leap of faith on Jake's part.