07/14/2014 12:02 pm ET Updated Sep 13, 2014

Staying in a College Town Over the Summer

Even though I've lived in Tucson for about two years now, I haven't really embraced it as a home away from home. Instead, I decided to focus on its shortcomings in comparison to my hometown. The roads are bumpy and pothole-ridden. The houses aren't tucked away into the suburban neighborhoods I've gotten used to. And while I've heard many people go on and on about the culture of Tucson, I heard them but didn't really listen. Seeing living in Tucson as simply temporary has made me shut doors before I truly even opened them.

But, this past summer has taught me why it's important to stop treating your college town as simply a temporary place, a stepping point. Because you're not supposed to treat college itself as merely a phase or a transition between childhood and the real world. You're supposed to see it as an experience in itself, not the means to an end. And, the location of your school can play a pretty big factor in your college experience.

This past summer I have spent a lot of time coming home to an apartment that feels too big just for me as I'm transitioning between roommates; driving around a town that I've refused to really get to know over the past couple of years; exploring past that one-mile radius from campus that I've been stuck in. And, I've stopped only looking for the faults in Tucson. (But I have seen them in our stars... because I've seen The Fault in Our Stars. Get it? Yeah, I'm not as funny as I'd like to think.) I've seen how Tucson pushes eating local, which is always great to see. And how there are so many ways to give back to the community. And how there are literally coffee shops everywhere, which any coffee addict has to appreciate. And, I may have actually gotten truly attached to this town.

As cliché as this probably sounds, college isn't just some step in your journey. It is its own adventure, filled with endless opportunities and lessons. And, where you are is a big part of that journey. And just like taking a college class where something really resonates with you, you may realize that you're in the right place. Or, just like taking a course that you're supposed to like but just can't find a way to be fully engaged, you could learn what you don't like, which is just as important as learning what you do. So for the rest of you staying in your college town over summer, try a restaurant off-campus, go to local landmark, just find a way to explore since you can and should do so much more than just attend school here. You make lifelong friendships here. You have important coming-of-age moments here. And, you live -- in every sense of the word -- here.