It’s Not Good Bye
Why parting is such sweet sorrow, kind of.
By Natalie Hays, Texas State University
It’s that time of the year where college towns around the nation watch as their students leave in droves.
For some cities, this means watching traffic disappear into nothingness, while others see no change at all. And just as a lot of the local families breathe a sigh of relief, a lot of graduates are already sighing with nostalgia. Every summer since freshman year, recent graduates have been getting a tiny taste of what it was going to feel like when they finally had to leave their college town.
It starts out innocently enough— you’re 18 and you’ve just moved out of your dorm. You’re feeling experienced and confident that you’ve completely immersed yourself in everything college life has to offer. By that summer, you want a break from it, or at least a return to high school friends so you can swap stories.
But then it hits—maybe not at first, but soon you start to miss the city you’ve started to call your home away from home. Gradually, over the years, that feeling will grow and grow, until it finally comes to a head when you graduate.
Here are the five things that you’re never quite able to appreciate about your college town until you’ve had to leave them behind.
1. Food Joints
The way to everyone’s heart is through their stomach, and every college town has a few restaurants that everyone craves. These are the hole in the wall food joints owned by local families and even the franchises that you begrudgingly come to love because they hit the spot (for cheap).
Sure, in Central Texas you could throw a rock and hit a place that serves Chili Relleno, but it’s never as good as the one you’ve ordered for four years at your local dive.
2. The Local Bar Crawl
While the food in your college town is always great, the local bars are even better. Sometimes good food and drink coincide at the same place, and those bars are the holy grail of your town. However, there is one pretty massive difference between your favorite bar and your favorite restaurant—the memories.
Sure you have that one kinda funny story about that one time you went and got burgers after a football game, but those remembrances pale in comparison to the stories you can tell about your bar crawls.
It’s your bar stories that you’ll be retelling for years to come, mostly because they’re some of your first solid memories and half-memories of legally drinking. You could maybe tell your parents about that one time you danced on top of a bar. (But only maybe, and definitely don’t tell them what happened after that.)
3. Your College Friends
Your college friends are some of the first real friends you make. Not to say that your high school friends weren’t great, but a lot of the times you became friends with them because you were forced to spend whole days together. This (hopefully) isn’t the same case with your college friends.
Unless you get along really well with your roommate, college forces you to get out and make friends, but even then you still need to branch out a bit unless the hermit lifestyle suits you.
With the whole “you need friends” thing in mind, a lot of people go out in search of an organization on campus to find some. The friends you make in student groups tend to have similar interests with you, so hanging out with them feels natural.
Leaving them to go back home can be a bummer over the summer, but you can look forward to seeing them in the fall. Plus after you graduate, since your interests are aligned, you don’t have that awkward drift apart from them like you can have with your high school friends.
Ah yes, the sweet taste of autonomy. College is the first time you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want. The impulse control that was your parents is all but gone unless you stayed in town for school. Things that felt required before now feel optional, like class attendance and getting out of bed.
You can eat whatever you want, and nobody will tell you you’re being nuts for getting Chinese food five days in a row. (Pro-tip: Large orders of chicken fried rice last for days and always taste good.)
You can live your life however you want in college, but that isn’t to say it won’t come back to bite you in the ass.
Freedom also comes with consequences, so maybe going out every single night isn’t the best idea, especially for your kidneys. Unfortunately, for better or worse, you lose a degree of that freedom when you go home for the summer. While your parents might understand that you’ve been living your life away at school, coming home at 3am might annoy them more than it annoys your roommate.
5. Your College (duh)
College is what made you come to your college town in the first place, so you have to at least kind of miss it when you leave. That’s not to say you miss going to class or writing term papers, but your life does revolve around college in some small way. Maybe you live your life in the library studying, or you play intramural soccer, or football games are really your shit—summer means that you have to put all that off for a little while, if not permanently.
The first few weeks away from college are relaxing, but then you get bored. School gives you loads to do, and it makes you a part of a new community. Getting away from that can be hard, and the college lifestyle will be short lived once you walk the stage. So it’s totally fine to look forward to the fall semester, because college is like the tutorial for real life, but way more fun.
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