I spent my freshman year consumed by FOMO–I went to all the downtowns, dirty rush events and date nights I could. It seemed normal, even expected, to go out four nights a week, especially since everyone around me was doing it. If I wasn’t stumbling home on a Tuesday or sleeping through an alarm on a Friday, I felt that I was somehow experiencing college incorrectly.

Although I was constantly surrounded by people, I found freshman year incredibly lonely. Second semester hit, and my discontent reached an all time high with the notorious process of sorority “open” rush. My closest friends from first semester became strangers. On top of this, I was feeling the affects of Seasonal Affective Disorder. The Penn Bubble was closing in, suffocating me.

I felt conflicted by everything in my life. When I went home for the weekend, I stalked my friend’s Instagram and Facebook and felt left out of the incredible parties that I was missing. But when I would hop on Amtrak to come back to school, I wished I didn’t have to return.

By junior year, I had moved into my own apartment at 40th and Spruce with Stella, my little white maltese dog, as a roommate. It was the best decision I’d made so far.

Now, I’m finally comfortable telling people that I like Penn. The past three years have hard– really hard–, but somehow, I’ve made it through. I stopped using the practiced response (“It’s amazing!”) that I had given to high school friends and family, people who had huge expectations for me that I was constantly struggled to live up to. I started giving them my real answer: “I hated my first two years here because I felt like I was drowning in a black pit of eternal loneliness, but hey, now I’m good!”

That’s because I’ve learned to do my own thing, and, more importantly, learned what “my own thing” is. With a healthy amount of perspective, a bunch of new friends, and a whole lot of 8 am Flywheel classes, I think I’ve mastered the key to my (almost) sanity. I stay home more often, instead of forcing myself to go to out just because everyone else is. I have a pet I have to come back to approximately every three hours. No longer can I go to a friend’s for a pregame and then hit up Smokes’ until closing time—I have to take the dog out . And I spend my Hungover Sundays braving the cold, walking Stella around the block.

This summer I decided to make another unique decision. I officially moved downtown on June 1st . No, I’m not shacking up at Recess full time. I’m finally doing what my freshman year peer advisor told me to do—leaving the Penn Bubble. Say hello to the newest resident of 23rd and Walnut.

My friends have all had a similar reaction to my move. They berated me about how much I would hate crossing Walnut Street Bridge in the snow to get to class and how they wouldn’t see me anymore. My friend in the apartment below me was initially so frustrated with my decision that I pondered whether to stick it out one more year in “The Nest.” Everyone said I would miss out on the true experience of senior year—but it’s my senior year, and who’s to say what that is supposed to look like?

Moving downtown has a bunch of practical benefits—it’s closer to 30th Street Station for the summer internship that I snagged in Conshohocken, it’s an 8–minute walk from my beloved Flywheel class, and Trader Joe’s is nearby. My apartment building even has a pet–friendly community (you’re welcome, Stella!). But one thing I have learned from my days off this year is that getting off of campus is a good thing. My FOMO is gone, and I’m taking solace in the fact that I won’t have to fall asleep to the sounds of the frat house next to my old place blasting music for the third time that week. Sure, class may be a little bit more of a hike, but I only have two (!!!) semesters left in college—I might as well do what makes me happy.