Why I Came to Kent State from New York City

Words by Jason Cohen

A lot of people hate small talk, and as of late, I am one of them. As a senior in my fourth year of college, it has lost its novelty. My least favorite question recently is: “Where are you from?” 

Here is how the conversation usually goes:

Them: “Where are you from?” 

Me: “New York City.”

Them: “Wait, actually in the city? Where?”

Me: “Upper West Side of Manhattan.”

Them: “I don’t know where that is, but that’s awesome! Why the hell did you come to Kent State?” 

Me: “My grandma and dad went here, so I got scholarships for that. I got academic scholarships and I got invited to the Honors College. Also, I didn’t like living in a big city, so Kent was perfect.” 

Them: “Oh, that makes sense.” 

The truth is, there are deeper reasons I am here, but I have not had the desire to disclose them lately. However, since it is my last semester, I feel it’s important for me to reflect on them now. 

I went to Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School from 7th grade through 12th grade. It’s a private school in Manhattan and is known for being one of the most expensive schools in the city. In fact, President Trump’s youngest son, Barron, attended the school before moving to Washington, D.C. Going to such a pompous school was not something I enjoyed even remotely. It was highly competitive and I felt overwhelmed by it. The popular students all wore the same designer brands that my family would never consider buying for me, and they all seemed like they lived perfect lives. They probably didn’t, but that’s how I felt. 

When college application time came around, students were stressed. They freaked out, saying things like, “Oh my god, I’m not gonna get into college.” Meanwhile, they were applying to (and eventually getting into) Ivy League schools. It made me want to take it easy to avoid the panic and stress they felt.

In addition, I had recently become spiritually inclined and began following my intuition along with what I referred to as “signs.” There were numerous signs pointing me toward Kent State. As I previously stated in my first blog post, my dad passed away when I was nine years old, so I did not hear anything about his college experience from him. That made me want to go to Kent State like he had to experience something similar to what he experienced. 

My dad always seemed cool to me as I am sure most fathers seem cool to their sons at a young age. I remember hanging out with a friend at my apartment and my mom informing me there was a phone call for me. I took the phone call and then came back to my friend. I said, “That was my dad. He’s cool.” (My dad lived in Pittsburgh, so my friend never met him.)

Me with my dad when I was a baby: 

These were the factors that initially got me interested in attending Kent State. I then visited and fell in love with the beautiful campus. It was an attractive contrast to the concrete jungle I had lived in for the past 13 years. While visiting, I learned information that made me want to go even more. Due to my dad graduating from Kent State, I was entitled to a huge scholarship. I also was just within reach of the Honors College if I got all As for the rest of high school, and my SAT score just barely qualified (more “signs” for me). Being accepted to the Honors College meant better dorms along with many other perks, including more scholarships. 

While I visited, my grandparents told me to go to Hillel, the Jewish center on campus. While I was there, I met people who were in the fraternity my dad was in, Alpha Epsilon Pi. They were cool and excited to learn my dad was in the fraternity. Joining would be another way to connect with my dad, so I considered it to be an important opportunity. 

My second choice was University of Pittsburgh, to which I was accepted. It is a great school and many people in my family have gone there, but it was in the city, and it did not have the connection to my late father that Kent State had. 

Lately, I have not felt forthcoming enough to discuss this with people when the question comes up, but I am grateful I reflected on it now. It was quite a decision to come to Kent State from New York City and not be a fashion major. It has been a journey I will never forget, and I am sad that it is ending soon. I only hope I will be courageous enough to make meaningful decisions like this for the rest of my life. 

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