I’m only a couple of weeks into living in my apartment, but every aspect of having my own place makes me feel like a real adult. I’m 2,500 miles away from my family, yet I feel so at home being able to do everything — from going grocery shopping to cooking dinner — for myself. I’m still learning how to do the little things that my parents would always do, like doing the dishes or cleaning up after my infamous kitchen messes, but I can’t imagine living in a dorm again. My friends and I had always joked that I’d be getting rides from other people — from friends or from Uber drivers — for the rest of my time at the University because I wasn’t planning on bringing my car from California. Well, I somehow convinced my parents to let me ship it out here, and needless to say, having a car is probably one of the most exciting things about living in an apartment. I have to admit that I teared up when I saw my Lexus coming down off of the car lift last week — I didn’t even care that the driver was giving me the weirdest look as he handed me my keys and drove to his next destination. However, I think that I was so thrilled to see my car in Virginia because it reminds me of home and of all the memories I have from driving around back in high school. Having my car parked right outside my apartment to take almost everywhere — except for classes since parking on Grounds is nonexistent — gives me a feeling of independence that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Last year, every time I wanted to go somewhere not within walking distance, I had to Uber — and let me tell you, those bills add up. Besides the expense of taking an Uber, it was frustrating to have to rely on someone else to take me everywhere. I also feel so much more self-sufficient compared to last year because I’m able to cook dishes for myself. Call me crazy, but I actually love going grocery shopping and getting to plan my own meals for the week. Driving to Trader Joe’s for the mini frozen pizzas or peanut butter pretzels — the latter would always get me in trouble with my dad when I snuck a few to my dog — makes me sentimental for some reason. Another bonus of grocery shopping for myself is buying exactly what I want instead of telling my mom to get the Tostitos Scoops, only to be disappointed by her selection of the Tostitos Bite-Size Rounds — trust me, there’s a difference. I have also tried so many different things from the grocery store because I can browse the aisles and pick anything that sounds good to me. So, thank you Wegmans for introducing me to Butter Boy French Butter — which is amazing on any type of bread — and their chocolate-covered, peanut butter-filled pretzel nuggets. Although I could have cooked for myself at home, there’s something about having my own kitchen that just makes me so much more motivated to actually prepare dinner. Even after a long day of classes, I still find myself looking forward to making dinner on my own or with my housemate. I’m not sure why this is the case, but food always tastes better when you actually put in the effort to make it for yourself. I cooked steak tacos for my friend the other night and was honestly convinced that I was ready to debut my talents on “Chopped.” You can imagine my disappointment when she then informed me that my creation was only average. Being able to make food whenever I want to — as long as there’s stuff in the refrigerator — has made it easier to make healthier choices most of the time. Last year, I would go to the dining hall, and even if I didn’t like the food — which happened more often than not — I would eat just to satisfy my hunger. With a kitchen just five steps away from my room, I no longer eat just to eat, and I actually enjoy my food. I definitely don’t miss eating from the snack machine and paying $2 for a tiny bag of pretzels, either. Now, I can get a full-sized bag of Snyder’s Butter Snaps to myself for the same price — that’s what I call freedom! I think that there are a ton of great and irreplaceable aspects of living in a dorm — walking down the hall and talking to my hallmates with their door open or bonding with my RA over a television show — but I never felt like it was my home. Since moving into an apartment, though, I’ve settled in and started a completely new part of my life. While I miss my family a ton, I feel like I have a piece of them with me every time I listen to my mom’s favorite Taylor Swift song as I’m cruising down Route 29 or spot the Trader Joe’s sparkling lemonade that my brother is obsessed with. I know it sounds silly because whether you live in an apartment or a dorm shouldn’t make that much of a difference in your life, but my new apartment has finally made Charlottesville feel like my home away from home.