From Long Beach, CA to Syracuse, NY

Name: Chris Rothery
Class Year: Senior
Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Long Beach, CA
What else do you do here? President of the Syracuse University / SUNY ESF Quidditch team

ESF student Chris Rothery

A little over four years ago, I was just a long haired Southern Californian kid trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Honestly, that part hasn’t really changed much. In fact, I am sitting on the sand near the Pacific Ocean as I write this, and as a soon to be graduating senior I still have a lot of life left to figure out. If you’ve ever been a high school senior looking at colleges, you are probably familiar with what I am talking about. Choosing your college and your major is a big choice, really the first big adult, life impacting choice that you are allowed to make. All I knew at the time was that I cared about the environment, and that the only career I could be happy in was one where I could be actively involved in making the world a better place.

I spent a lot of time on the internet looking for schools and as it turns out, the “College of Environmental Science and Forestry” is hard to miss when googling “Environmental Science” majors. There it was: the school with the slogan “improve your world”. ESF was then added onto the long list of schools, right along with UC Berkeley, UCLA, UVA, Cornell, CSUMB, and many more.

When we planned our big east college trip for the summer, we started with Cornell and Ithaca College, then Syracuse University and ESF, continuing down the coast to UVA. Honestly, I was not thoroughly impressed with any of those campuses at the time. Call it bad timing, but we arrived in the middle of the great heat wave of 2011. Being from the Los Angeles area, I can usually handle heat of 100+ pretty easily, but 90 degrees plus 90% humidity is a completely different thing. Because of the heat wave, and because of summer campus didn’t feel alive, it was missing its usual vibrancy, the human connection, the spirit of its students filling the empty halls. To be fair though, all of the campuses I visited suffered from the same problems. No school looks the same during the summer as it does during the full swing academic year.

Usually, ESF’s quad is full of tie-dyed, barefooted, Frisbee throwing college hippies (weather permitting of course). Everyone greeting their friends as they pass by on the way to class. Don’t get me wrong, visiting campuses over the summer is still one of the best ways to get a feel for a school, but just be sure to have your tour guide help you visualize the missing details.

When senior year of high school rolled around, the admissions letters started coming in. I got rejected from my top choice school with a letter dated April 1st. Sadly it was not just a mean April fool’s day prank. I had made a spreadsheet comparing schools by every data point I could find: combined cost over average graduation rate, school rankings, attempted quantification of my own opinions of the place.

When it came down to it, ESF was almost a no-brainier. I say almost a no-brainer because I almost went to Cal State Monterey Bay, with its beautiful, brand new (founded in 1994) campus literally across the street from the ocean. ESF had a better program for a better price, and besides traveling to the east would be something of an adventure for me. Even paying out of state tuition at ESF was less expensive than any California school I could go to, with only the exception of Cal State Long Beach where I could have lived at home.

No other school could offer such a depth and variety of environmental education as ESF could. I didn’t want to settle on a school with only one program in environmental science, only to find out that it wasn’t quite what I wanted to learn. ESF offers classes in every aspect of the environment whether you are interested in forestry, stream ecology, sustainability, sociocultural aspects of environmentalism, landscape design, and more.

It’s hard to believe that I will be graduating at the end of this academic year. Ask any senior, time has a strange way dragging by in the moment, yet flying by in retrospect. More importantly though, ESF’s low cost has allowed me to remain free of the burdens of college debt. I am confident in the education, and skills that I have acquired over my time here, and I feel prepared to take on the world. Coming from Los Angeles, Syracuse wasn’t the most exciting destination in the world, but after four years it’s become a second home. If I could go back, knowing what I know now, I would still choose ESF.

Only during the dead of my first real winter did I find myself questioning my choice of leaving California, but who else can lay boast to the claim of surviving the coldest February in Syracuse since 1902, where it was never above freezing, and snowed every day? In fact my friends at home are freezing when I’m looking for layers to take off. Sometimes, life is all about the stories you tell, and ESF has given me plenty of those too.


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