A Freshwoman Opens Up About What It's Like To Do Long-Distance In College

Photo: Courtesy of Gianna Rockoff.
"One of the sassiest costumes from [my high school performance], Detroit to LA: A Tribute to Motown, where I sang 'Where Did Our Love Go.'" — Gianna
In our series A Class Of Their Own, Refinery29 is following five college freshwomen from across the country as they define their identities and relationships.

A 2015 grad of Loyalsock High School in Williamsport, PA, 18-year-old Gianna Rockoff has just left her parents, friends, dog, and boyfriend of three years to attend her dream school, the University of Pittsburgh. She opened up to us about her challenges, both in the classroom and outside of it — from learning to do laundry to navigating a long-distance relationship for the first time.

Why did you choose the University of Pittsburgh?

"I came here with my boyfriend's family for a vacation, because his family's from here. I fell in love with it, so I started looking at a bunch of schools around here, and Pitt was the place that I really wanted to be. I couldn’t be happier with my choice. Joey, my boyfriend of almost three years, goes to Penn State Greater Allegheny, 30 minutes away. Most of the time, we keep in really good contact — we talk to each other every day, and we see each other as much as we can. He does not like the school he's at, so he’s transferring, hopefully, to Point Park University [in Pittsburgh].

"We'll be a little bit closer, and that will benefit our relationship... I think it's so important that we both grow separately before we grow together, and once he gets there, we won't feel the need to be together so much. Maybe our time spent together will be more special since it won't be as often. I love to spend time with him, but I also love to be with my roommates and friends at school, so...it'll take some time to really figure out what that balance is. When we came to college, I was very worried about suffocating each other. But for the most part, we’ve been really good; usually, when he wants to hang out, I want to see him anyways."
Did you expect your sex life to change at college?
"I was thinking Joey and I wouldn't have as much time to have privacy, since we're both going to be busy, which has actually been the case. My roommate's been really sweet about having him over, and she's been cool about giving us privacy, but I haven't really utilized that because I wouldn't want somebody to do that to me. So I don't ever tell her to leave the room or anything like that. But he has a dorm [room] to himself, so I've been over there a couple times, and we've had that privacy."
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Photo: Courtesy of Gianna Rockoff.
"My boyfriend of three years, Joey." — Gianna
How was moving into the dorm?
"It took us nine hours to move in [laughs]. I met my roommate for the first time on move-in day. We decorated our room all fun — we both bought these tapestries...and Christmas lights. It's really homey. Living in a dorm is definitely different because now I have a roommate, whereas I had a room to myself at home. But we get along so well. We actually are in an eight-person suite, so we have two private bathrooms. That's been really nice. I was worried about the whole communal-bathroom thing. So we have our suite of girls, and across the hall there's a suite of guys. Living in a dorm is cool. My bed's more comfortable than my one at home, so it's hard to get out of in the morning."
Meeting so many new people, do you ever wish you were single?
"Not really. I just had this talk with Joey the other night... It's solidified the way that I feel about him. I mean, I never know what’s going to happen three years from now, but as of right now being around guys and getting to know them doesn't change my feelings about Joey at all. My suitemate is in a relationship, and my other two roommates are not. We always talk about boys and how cute they are, but, you know, it's just a girl thing [laughs]."
Do you have any concerns about campus sexual assault?
"I know that it happens, because I've heard a lot of stories, even in my hometown, not just on college campuses, but I'm not nervous about it happening to me. We had like three seminars on sexual assault when we got to campus. We talked about how you can't give consent if you're under the influence of anything, and how having sex while somebody can't give consent is rape, and how that's a serious problem. They didn’t really teach us anything about safe sex; they didn't talk about condoms, birth control, anything like that — it was more just the whole alcohol-and-drugs side of it."
"All moved into my new dorm." — Gianna
What's surprised you about college so far?
"If I'm being 100% honest, I had this preconceived idea that I was going to get here, that guys were going to be creepy, and that girls were going to be mean and stuck-up. But that’s so not the case, at least [not with] the people that I've met. It's been awesome meeting people who I fit in with."
What have you learned from being away from home for the first time?
"I wasn't expecting to miss my parents as much as I do. Throughout the summer, it was, Oh my god, I can't wait to get out of here, I can't wait to get away from my mom, she's nagging me. But then I got here, and it was, My parents are great! I actually love when my mom nags! The other night, I called my mom because I was feeling really homesick. Honestly, hearing her voice helped a lot. If she's ever not available for me to call, I'll calm myself down, leave my room, [and] go surround myself with people.

"I haven't had to do my laundry before. I had to FaceTime my mom one night and have her help me do my laundry, which sounds pathetic. I sound helpless. But...now...we have laundry dates, so I FaceTime her when I do my laundry. I'll get the hang of it eventually. Cooking for myself has been hard because I have to make microwaveable food instead of my mom's great Italian home-cooked meals. Dining hall food has been different. Usually, after class, I'll go to the main dining hall [and] grab a salad or a wrap, something quick. But last night, me and my friends had our first Chipotle delivery. I've been eating way too much Chipotle, actually!"
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"Enjoying the last week with my mom and dad before moving into school." — Gianna
What have your classes been like?
"Chemistry I already took in high school, pre-calc I already took in high school, so I was expecting them to be a breeze. But they're not [laughs]. It's a lot of work, a lot of studying. So that's another thing that hit me in the face when I got here. My freshman seminar is called 'The Unexamined Life.' It’s like a comp philosophy class, and it's helped me grow a lot intellectually. [The professor] makes you think bigger and bigger, and deeper and deeper, and I'm excited to expand my knowledge. That's what I came here for. I'm going to involve myself in psychology research because that's my major, but as of right now, I've had so much homework and stuff to do that I don't even have time to join any extracurriculars."

What do you expect to be telling yourself at the end of the semester?

"Probably to just keep pushing. I have a really good support system, and I know that my family will continue to push me. I see myself smarter, with a really good group of friends, happy, adjusted, probably still homesick, but a lot better than I have been. So yeah, hopefully just grown. For my academics, I would love to do well, have a high GPA, all that stuff. I think that's what everybody wants, so I’m going to keep working hard for that. By the end of the semester, Joey will have figured out if he is able to get into Point Park, we'll continue to grow, and things will continue to get better...everything works out. If it doesn't, it doesn't. For my friends, I hope that our friendships get to grow, we open up to each other, and that I continue to expand my friend group and meet more people."
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