New in Town
When you leave a tiny hometown to go to college in a big city, your new classmates will have questions for you. Lots of questions.
By Cassidy Leslie, University of Nevada Reno
Whether you moved states to attend a college far away from home, or you just drove down the highway to a city where no one knows your name, the distance doesn’t matter much—if you moved from a small town, you’re going to have to make some adjustments.
Most of the time, given that you make the right friends, getting used to a larger city brings nothing but novelty, just like trying anything for the first time. There may be some nights where you miss the bucolic stillness of your neighborhood, or the extended-family feeling of your small school, but most of the time, getting to the big city is worth it.
Still, just as you adjust to your new lifestyle, the people in your life will be adjusting to you. Sardonic jabs aside, they are likely driven by curiosity just like you are, so there should be little to resent. As more Americans move to cities and suburban areas, the odds of knowing someone from a rural area decrease with every generation. As a result, you may be a lot of your new classmates’ first friend from the country. So, be patient, answer their questions in good-humor and try to understand where they’re coming from.
In the midst of your good-natured responses though, some of the questions do get a bit repetitive. If you moved from a small town to attend college, these are the ten questions you will hear so often that, despite your best efforts, they will eventually be burned into your brain.
1. How do you pronounce that?
This question is posed most often during in-class icebreakers or when texting a new friend.
It starts with them asking you to write down the name of your hometown, and next thing you know they’re asking for a phonetic walkthrough of the first city you ever learned to say. Either that or they’re saying it wrong, and you’re correcting it like they just mispronounced your first name.
2. Where is that exactly?
If you’re going to school in-state, chances are you’ve had to get extremely detailed when trying to help your friends triangulate the relative position of your hometown. You say things like, “It’s four hours away from Las Vegas, near the Utah border. You’ve probably driven through it.”
On the other hand, when talking to someone from another state, all you say is, “It’s just a small town in the middle of nowhere Nevada.”
3. What did you do for fun?
After spending a good chunk of time explaining what it’s like coming from a rural area, someone always asks, “What you did you do for fun?” to which you answer by saying, “I did what every other kid or teenager did.”
Just like everyone else, you sat down with friends and brainstormed what to do for the weekend; your town just had different options. While others went to the movies, you and your friends laid out blankets on the ground and looked up to see who could find the North Star first. While some people went to the mall with their older siblings, your older siblings took you to a dirt road and taught you to drive.
4. Does that mean you live on a farm?
Most likely no, it means I’m from a small town in the rural area of a state.
Sure, there are plenty of agricultural facilities in the area, but living outside of a metropolitan area does not mean I am conscribed to a life of working the fields.
5. Is that you?
Running into someone from your hometown on campus often means a quick, “Oh wow, I haven’t seen you in a while, how are you?”
After a brief catch-up conversation, you realize that was the longest conversation you’ve had with your former classmate since elementary school. You hardly ever said two words to them while in high school, but having a hometown in common just made you unlikely friends in college.
6. Why did you move so far away from home?
The answer to this question definitely depends on who is asked, as sometime the newly-urbanized moved away out of hatred for their tiny town, and sometimes it was just a matter of attending the best in-state institution.
For me, it was the latter. Rural areas, for all their good, will always struggle to compete against larger cities for resources, meaning that the best schools are usually in densely populated areas.
7. Can you drive in this weather?
With a new move comes a new climate, and sometimes, especially in the more geographically extreme parts of the country, changing cities means entirely new terrains.
So, when you hop in the car with your friends for a road-trip, you might turn to them for help, especially when your friends are not use to conditions like rain, snow, or dirt. If this is the case, consider it something to teach them in recompense for everything they have taught you.
And sometimes, when you’ve never had to drive on a freeway before and the thought of doing so seems frankly terrifying, you know who to turn to for help. Some rural areas have no freeways anywhere near them, so moving to a city—especially driving there for the first time—can be one in a series of challenges.
8. What do you mean you’ve never been to Target?
Growing up in a rural area means you most likely didn’t have a Target just a short drive away. It also means your hometown was never graced by the presence of a Taco Bell, Chipotle, Port of Subs, Starbucks, Costco or Macy’s.
Moments like these are often more fun for your urban friends than for you, as they can get caught up in the excitement of showing you something they love. As a result, you will spend your first few months being dragged to various chain stores that have little merit in themselves, but are woven so tightly into the fabric of city life that visiting them is integral to embracing the area.
9. Is your town really that small?
It really is that small; being able to count your town’s stoplights on one hand and everyone in your graduating class is a sure sign it’s that small.
If you’re especially lucky, you’ll be from a town that has a smaller population than the school you’re attending, a fact that will drive your friends insane with incredulity. When your high school had fewer people than your roommate’s graduating class, it’s safe to say your town is as tiny as you say it is.
10. Really, you’re the third generation to live there?
Yes, most people from my city can go into the archives of their high school and find a photo of their grandparents. Also present: prom pictures of your uncle, evidence of your mom’s awkward hair phases and your dad’s basketball team photo.
Even more meta? Once you go off to college, you can visit your old high school to see your senior class photo in the hallway, and while you’re there, you can say hi to all the students and faculty, all of who still remember you.
Even though being from a rural area can make you feel like you’re from a foreign country, it can also give you a sense of pride. Your background sets you apart, and it gives you something to share with anyone who had a different type of childhood. And though answering the same questions again and again will definitely get tedious, at least you know that not only are you growing through your experiences, but you’re helping others grow as well.