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Student Reflections

Oakland to Boston: A Cross-Country Road Trip Back Home

Mackenzie Fuller
May 30, 2023

Part I: Pre-Trip and Planning

At a Mexican restaurant somewhere in California, over a bowl of tortilla chips and salsa, my friend Tess and I planned out an entire cross-country road trip. While her new car, whom we affectionately named Turbo, was getting checked out by a mechanic across the street, we buckled down and mapped out the whole trip. We called relatives and family friends to find accommodation along the way, then booked a combination of hostels, Airbnbs, and hotels for cities we didn’t have anyone to stay with. We (roughly) calculated how much gas would cost and all our other expenses. Who knew our peak productivity would occur at this Mexican restaurant? 

Since we planned our trip around where we had friends and relatives, our path back home wasn’t linear. Our trip started by heading down Route 1 from Oakland to Southern California and ended (before coming to Boston) in Pine Plains, New York. Here’s the route we took back home, with all the places we visited in chronological order:

  • Santa Baraba, CA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Joshua Tree, CA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Telluride, CO
  • Denver, CO
  • Omaha, NE
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Chicago, IL
  • Fort Wayne, IN
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Niagara Falls, NY
  • Pine Plains, NY

Part II: The Trip and Memories

It took us 11 days to drive across the country, with each day bringing a new adventure. From crossing paths with a caribou (elk? moose? We’re still not 100% sure), to seeing a Great Lake for the first time, this trip was filled with so many memories. I could write dozens of blog posts and still not share everything, but here’s a highlight from each location:

  • Santa Baraba, CA: Walking along the beach after a long (first) day of driving and seeing the sunset
  • Los Angeles, CA: Seeing the Hollywood sign from the Griffith Observatory
  • Joshua Tree, CA: Waking up to the most breathtaking sunrise I’ve ever seen in my life
  • Las Vegas, NV: Walking along the strip and taking in all the sights
  • Telluride, CO: Playing Catan for the first time and winning (beginner’s luck?)
  • Denver, CO: Getting to reunite with my friend Devra, who I met during my study abroad in Rome 
  • Omaha, NE: Exploring the Old Market neighborhood of the city
  • Milwaukee, WI: Cooling off by dipping my feet in Lake Michigan
  • Chicago, IL: Seeing an improv show our hostel recommended
  • Fort Wayne, IN: Eating lunch at Cracker Barrel (the perfect road trip restaurant) 
  • Cleveland, OH: Spending time with my family friends who I hadn’t seen since they moved to Cleveland at the start of the pandemic
  • Niagara Falls, NY: Seeing this breathtaking national landmark for the first time
  • Pine Plains, NY: Star-gazing at night to the clearest sky

Part III: Post-Trip Reflections

In 2019, when looking at all the majors Northeastern has to offer before entering my first year, International Affairs stood out to me simply because of the word “international.” That summer, I left the U.S. for the first time. I first went to Spain to visit my sister who had been living there and we spent seven weeks backpacking together around Europe. Returning to the United States, I was on a high from traveling and wanted to find a major (and ultimately a career) that would lead to even more travel opportunities. My eighteen-year-old self thought what better major than International Affairs?

So, coming to Northeastern, I knew I wanted to take advantage of all the global opportunities available to me. I’m happy to say I was able to study abroad in Italy and travel again around Europe. My last experience as a Northeastern student will also be abroad. This Summer, I’m finishing my last two classes via a dialogue program to Japan. As I leave Northeastern, I feel very fulfilled and satisfied knowing I was able to accomplish my goal of traveling. However, as my major describes, I only saw myself doing international travel. I never thought I’d spend a night in a yurt in Joshua Tree, California, go hiking in Telluride, Colorado, or have the best frozen custard of my life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (if you’ve been to Kopps, you know what I mean). I never imagined myself seeing The Mentalist in Las Vegas, visiting the Bean in Chicago, or getting drenched at Niagara Falls. I didn’t realize traveling within the U.S. could be just as exciting as going abroad. There’s something special about exploring your own country that I never fully realized until I had the opportunity to do so. 

I’m so grateful for my semester in Oakland for many reasons, but mainly because it served as a launch pad for this road trip, which opened the door for me to explore more of the United States.  I don’t think I would have ever visited Oakland or many other places in the Bay Area without the opportunity provided by Northeastern. In addition, without my semester in Oakland, I would have never had the chance to do a cross-country road trip and cross seven new states off my bucket list! In the end, Northeastern’s Semester and Summer In programs are simply a wonderful way to experience different parts of the United States and I recommend them to everyone.

If you get the opportunity to eat pasta in Rome, take it. If you get the opportunity to eat Cracker Barrel in Fort Wayne, Indiana, take it.