One of the typical questions students at UC Davis ask when first getting to know someone is usually, “What part of California are you from?” Most often responses include SoCal or the Bay Area, but ever so rarely you may hear, “I’m actually not from California.”
Out-of-state students are indeed a rare breed at UC Davis. Last year 867 out-of-state students accounted for only 4.5 percent of all admitted first-year students, which is only slightly higher than the 4.2 percent of international students admitted. And the 2010-11 school year tuition for out-of-state students was $35,958.91 as opposed to $13,079.91 for in-state students.
So why do students living as far away as New York, Virginia or Puerto Rico decide to attend UC Davis as opposed to their state school or a college closer to home?
Shellie Pick, a senior wildlife, fish and conservation biology major who was born and raised in Falls Church, Virginia – about 10 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. – said this is always the first question she gets when she tells people she is from Virginia.
“My answer is always the same. It snows in Virginia. Despite living through it every winter for 21 years, I can’t stand the snow. But just as bad are the humid summers. It’ll be 90 degrees with 100 percent humidity. Climate was definitely the driving force of my move to California,” Pick said.
But Pick also acknowledged that because California is such a large state, it has a wider selection of top universities compared to Virginia. US News & World Report ranks five of the 10 UC campuses among the top 10 public universities in the country.
Dorje Jennette, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) psychologist was not surprised by the number of out-of-state students.
“UC Davis has a lot going for it. I’m not surprised that we would attract a significant number of out-of-state students,” Jennette said.
Andre Appert, sophomore biological sciences major from Los Alamos, New Mexico, had a different reason for attending UC Davis.
“I decided to come to school in California partly because [it] offer[s] a great education but mostly because my parents work at a University of California-managed facility in New Mexico, so I actually pay in-state tuition,” Appert said.
Aside from trite frustrations of being the minority, such as getting a weird look when showing your non-California license as an ID or never truly understanding the meaning of the word “hella” even after repeated explanations from your Californian friends, additional challenges are not as easy to overcome or laugh off.
Both Pick and Brenda Marin Rodriguez, senior neurobiology, physiology, and behavior major from San Juan, Puerto Rico, find the cost of out-of-state tuition to be one of their biggest and hardest challenges to overcome.
“I find it frustrating when California students continually protest the tuition fee increases. I don’t think they realize how much out-of-state students have to pay,” Rodriguez said.
Pick said the distance from home has been one of her big challenges.
“Being homesick has been really hard. I only manage to make it home twice a year so it’s definitely hard to see my friends go home on weekends or when their parents come to visit,” Pick said.
Jennette added that homesickness can come up on any student, out-of-state or in-state, and suggested that it helps to have reminders of home around, to plan a trip home and to find things in common between home and UC Davis.
But despite the challenges that being a non-resident can present, there are many benefits as well. One advantage of UC Davis to other state schools in the country is the size of the state of California.
Rodriguez decided to come to UC Davis because of the unique diversity that the state of California brings.
“I was deciding between here and Iowa actually. And I decided that if I didn’t like Iowa I was kind of stuck there whereas in California there would be a variety of different landscapes and cultures within the same state,” Rodriguez said.
However, Jennette said it is important not to exaggerate differences between in-state and out-of-state students.
“California is a big state, and there are plenty of students coming from far enough away that weekend trips home are difficult to come by. UC Davis can seem just as different to students from SoCal as it does to students from Chicago,” Jennette said.
Most out-of-staters are happy with their college selection, acknowledging that it’s a great conversation starter while in college and back in their hometown. Appert said he has been enjoying the town of Davis and the diversity it brings.
“Los Alamos, New Mexico is a pretty small town so when I come to California it’s fun to see and do more of the fun things that larger cities have to offer,” Appert said.
These students agree that if they could make the decision again, they would still chose to attend UC Davis.
“I can’t imagine my life if I hadn’t chosen Davis. Being on my own for the past four years has definitely led me to grow, and I will always appreciate that,” Pick said.
CLAIRE MALDARELLI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.