I cringe a little when I think about how long ago college graduation seems from today. When my biggest concerns were whether I was going to trip on stage (I didn’t, though I did trip walking back to my seat) or whether my long-separated parents could stand having dinner together (they were fine).
A lot has happened since I wrote my graduation post way back in May. But one thing had not:
I was still in North Carolina.
But that recently changed because of two reasons.
- My apartment lease finally ran out.
- I’m finally employed!
But mainly because of #2. After going from “I’m so glad I’m taking a little bit of time off after college!” to “I think I’m ready to jump into work now” to “I’M GOING TO BE UNEMPLOYED FOREVER,” I’m very excited to start my career in Washington, D.C. this week.
That said, I’m going to miss North Carolina. It became my home away from home these past four years. I really do feel like I became a resident of the state and not just a student at UNC. Of all the things living here has given me beyond a bachelor’s degree, there are three things I consider most important.
- An appreciation of Southern Culture- Although I’m convinced I came to North Carolina with a stronger appreciation of grits and collard greens than most people I ended up befriending, I absolutely did not identify as a Southerner before I arrived. Maryland isn’t a Southern state. It really doesn’t have a strong regional identity at all. So living in the South gave me something I could adopt. Sure, at first I felt uncomfortable saying “y’all.” I didn’t know the difference between barbecues in North Carolina. And my freshman year roommate was British. But through classes that interwove Southern history, exploring places outside of Chapel Hill and meeting folks with some real strong accents, I finally came around. I still don’t like sweet tea as much as I should, but you can bet I’ll keep on saying “y’all.”
- Fearlessness- For someone who was beyond ready to get out of their small hometown, I had my fair share of homesickness my freshman year. Leaving our comfort zone isn’t always as easy as we imagine it to be. I was the only person from my high school at Carolina, and only knew a hand full of people coming in. I had to learn to build things from scratch. I had to learn flexibility, which isn’t something that comes easy for a type-A person like myself. Whether it was living on my own for the first time or pursuing opportunities in London and New York City, going to Carolina was the first step in a very long journey. And what a valuable first step it was.
- Friends for a lifetime- More important than anything were the people. Friends I met the first week of school to people I didn’t know until senior year. People I bonded with through work, extracurriculars and those certain classes we suffered through together. People who opened their homes to me and took me in when I was feeling homesick for my own family. Mentors who guided me through tough decisions and friends who were always there to listen. Each person played such an important part of my Carolina experience, and I hope many of them will continue to play a part in my life.
So thanks Carolina, and I’ll see you again soon. Until then…