The Pros and Cons of Moving to a City for College, as Told by a Small Town Local

Sometimes you just miss that clean, fresh air of your tiny, little hometown.

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Sometimes you just miss that clean, fresh air of your tiny, little hometown.

The Pro’s and Con’s of Moving to a City for College: As Told by a Small Town Local

Endless Opportunities or Peace and Quiet

Sometimes you just miss that clean, fresh air of your tiny, little hometown.

By Ashley Wertz, University of Pittsburgh


In 2014, I started my freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh with a few weekend trips to the city under my belt.

I was certainly no city dweller, as I had just graduated from high school that spring with a class of fewer than ninety students. Seeing about fifty times as many peers at convocation in August was quite a change to say the least. I know literally anybody could tell you that small town living is nothing like the city, but the metropolitan area is especially alien when you come from a place where everyone knows everyone. Given that, I’d say I’m fairly qualified to compare the two completely different styles of life. Here are the pros and cons I’ve found to be relevant in my time in the city during college.

Pro #1: (More) Diversity

The town of my youth boasts a whopping one percent population of people who aren’t white, so as a kid I was hardly aware of people outside of this bubble. I honestly thought there was only one school in the whole world at one point.

Living in the city, you’re exposed to tons of different people with varying backgrounds, race, identities, interests, skills and cultures. When you’re in college, you’re presumably there to learn and everyone you meet in classes and clubs has stories to tell. Being constantly surrounded by new people and experiences is what makes living in the city so vibrant. Small town mentalities tend to be on the closed-minded side, so it’s refreshing to hear from people who aren’t afraid of difference and change.

Con #1: There Are a Lot of People

Okay, hold on. Doesn’t this con contradict my first pro? Maybe, but I’m an introvert at heart, so I need my space. Though I love the variety of folks in the city, the sheer amount of them can make anyone claustrophobic.

The problem of proximity might not seem like a huge issue until you try to get on a bus at eight o’clock in the evening and find yourself too close to a crying baby while trying to maintain your balance as the driver slams on the gas as they pull away from the curb at record breaking speeds. And everyone is in such a hurry, always trying to get to the next destination as fast as possible with no regard for the people around them. My shoulders are perpetually tense from navigating through a sea of fellow pedestrians. I can’t help but appreciate the more relaxed nature of a small town.

Pro #2: You Never Get Bored

The most exciting thing to do in my hometown is go to Sheetz at three in the morning to get mozzarella sticks. In an urban setting you’ve got museums, multiple pizza places, local shops, hipster cafés, theme parks and probably some weird haunted landmarks.

Sometimes all of the options can get overwhelming, but you always know there will be something to do if, for some reason, a night in watching Netflix and eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s isn’t cutting it. Also, when you live in a city, bands actually remember that you exist! No more driving two hours in any direction to see a show. Basically what I’m saying is that your chances of seeing Beyoncé have gone up significantly.

Con #2: The Excess Noise

The first month of sleep in the city was no easy feat. While you have your universally accepted college sounds like somebody puking in the bathroom at three in the morning on a Thursday, the city adds a whole new layer of exasperation. Ambulances are constantly wailing into the wee hours of the morning. Construction never sleeps. People will run a 5k race at eight on a Sunday morning while blasting “Don’t Stop Believin’.”’

I thought I would eventually get used to these disturbances, but I’m too homesick for silent nights with the occasional barking dog or chirping cricket. College students can unanimously agree that sleep is a luxury. When these precious hours of rest are punctured by the furious beeping of car horns and the screeching of brakes, I can feel my motivation for waking up for my morning classes dwindling.

Pro #3: Job Opportunities

Oh jeez, I just had to bring up graduating. Look, I don’t want to think about my uncertain future as much as the next person, but the goal after college is hopefully to find something that will, you know, pay you money for doing work you’ve spent at least four years becoming qualified to do. All of those cool people I mentioned in Pro #1 can help you network so you can work at the places mentioned in Pro #2. Though you probably won’t land a job in a haunted penitentiary, one can dream.

You’re not going to find many job offers in small towns, especially if you’re looking to do something on the creative end. But before you even think about applying for jobs, internships are a thing that students are encouraged to do. I’m a firm advocate of said internships and living in the city has made it much easier to find local organizations and businesses that offer internships in areas I’m actually interested in.

Con #3: There’s Not as Much Fresh Air

The lack of trees and solitude is probably my biggest beef with city living. I’m lucky to live in a city with several parks and a botanical garden, but even as I walk along a wooded path I can hear the distant sounds of the city chugging along like clockwork. Kayaking down the Monongahela River is fun, but you can’t escape the towering buildings and sports stadiums that line the shore.

The city is beautiful in its own way, especially looking out at the skyline from afar. But turning off the hustle and bustle for even a second is impossible. Worst of all, during crisp autumn evenings, you can’t even prop your door open because people will 100 percent steal your TV.

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