When You Bring Your Big College Friends To Your Tiny Hometown

When You Bring Your Big College Friends To Your Tiny Hometown

I decided that if I couldn't bring the town to them, I would just have to bring them to the town.
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Everyone who leaves a small town for a big college knows that there are some major truths that happen while you're there. And there's also a lot that happens when you come back, but what about when you bring your college friends home to the middle of nowhere?

Well, quite a lot actually.

I have spent an entire two years explaining to my friends about my hometown. It's small. It's in the middle of nowhere. No one goes there on purpose unless you live there/know someone who does. It's just too out of the way and not really close to anything major. I explain to the ones from bigger cities that, no, it doesn't have a Mediterranean food restaurant (or really anything beyond Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese) and that yes, I really do live an hour away from the closest Target.

Friends from other small towns were confused as to why I loved my home so much. I mean, don't get me wrong, they don't hate their homes or anything, but it kind of confuses them that I travel home so much and take a lot of pride in being from what I like to think of as a hidden little gem.

I could list a million reasons why I think my hometown is amazing because it's my home, but I still just couldn't quite help them grasp the concept. So, naturally, I decided that if I couldn't bring the town to them, I would just have to bring them to the town. To that end, I packed them in my car a week and a half after finals were over and we drove the four hours to the teensy little place called Wise, Virginia.

To say that the visit was interesting would be the least of it. I did my best to point out landmarks to them as we drove in, with the help of my roommate, who had visited before. The beauty of the Appalachian Mountains always makes for a scenic drive, but I was especially proud of them this time as there were lots of "oohs" and "ahs" from the back seat. I don't really know what they were expecting after hearing comments from other people like "Wise County? What on earth are you going there for?" or "You realize there's nothing there, right?," but I don't think they were disappointed with a sunset over the mountains introduction.

The next day was when I got to really show off. I took them for a walk down on Main Street, making sure to show off the historical buildings and point out things such as our two boutiques and one coffee shop. You would have thought that I had asked the entire town to arrange for everything to be perfect from the way things went that day. We ran into three different people I knew on the street while two more drove by (in the span of an hour or so). Flags had been freshly hung from every streetlight. The flowers were in full bloom in planters and houses. Like I had constantly been trying to tell my pals, Wise was being a perfect, quintessential, movie style small town.

We saw the major views off the mountains, ate at my favorite local places (where the fact that I knew half of the people working seemed to seal the impression that I know everyone in the county), and just generally drove around. For two days, my big college friends got to get a taste of my small town life in what I personally think is one of the coolest places ever (I might be a little biased though), and I might not know their exact thoughts, but I do know that they understand me like they hadn't before because they understand the place that built me and shaped me and made me who I am.

To the friends that let me pack them into a car and drive them four and a half hours down Interstate 81 to one of the little tip counties of Virginia, thanks. You guys don't know how much it meant to me that you came and that you appreciated what you saw.

To my little hometown, thanks for showing them the way that we are and how the place that I come from simply is. I can safely say that an entire town built me, not just a house, and I'm glad that some of my favorite people in the world could experience just a tiny little bit of that.

Cover Image Credit: Lily Snodgrass

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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5 Things To Remember For Spring Break

Have fun, but please be safe.

JordynL
JordynL
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All students look forward to one thing during the school year, no matter what age they are. There's no doubt that we all get excited for breaks, but one stands out more-so than the others: Spring Break!

When you're a kid, you're excited to spend time with your friends, go camping, and spend all your time at the pool. In high school, it's along the same lines, but you're trying to sneak alcohol everywhere and everyone is judgmental about what swimsuit someone decided to wear.

In college, you do one of two things: 1. You sleep for a solid week and Lord help the person that decides to interrupt your sleep deprived, peaceful slumber. And 2. You travel to the beach of your choice and you're drunk the entire time (depending on who you are, you're also drunk during the first half of the week that classes start again).

If you decide to be a party animal during our favorite school break, obviously I want you to have all the fun you could possibly have. The less you remember it, the better..or worse- I don't remember. Maybe a few flashes here and there. Just please don't puke everywhere. But the most important thing is that you keep safe and be cautious wherever you decide to go. Just please don't recreate Spring Breakers or The Hangover. --But if you do recreate The Hangover, video or it didn't happen. I want to see who steals a tiger, loses a tooth, has an Asian man in the trunk, and who got stuck on the hotel roof.--

But seriously, to avoid any unfortunate events happening to you and/or your friends, please keep these things in mind.

1. Have a buddy system

Crazy stuff happens during Spring Break. Everyone knows that. Just don't lose track of each other because something serious could happen and it definitely would ruin the trip. Make sure each other are safe and don't put yourselves in a position that you'll regret later. Spring Break is the prime time for rape, kidnapping, human trafficking, etc. It's crowded everywhere so it would be extremely easy for someone to slip away undetected. People won't be paying attention to anything else except having fun. With all the distractions, that's a perfect opportunity for a predator to strike.

2. Be aware of what you put in your body

Alcohol and drugs are always a factor. If someone offers you a drink, be careful- especially if it's already open. You don't know 99% of the people so you have no reason to trust anyone and you don't know their intentions. As for drugs that you might take, there's a lot of impure stuff nowadays. Even weed is enhanced with things that people aren't aware of. Obviously. That's why there's so many different names. Just be careful and aware.

If you go to the bathroom, take your drink with you. Don't leave it somewhere, unattended, and come back to it. You don't know what could be in it anymore. If anything, get a new one.

3. Always have your ID, money, and phone

Getting into more serious topics, it's important that you have these things. And not for the fun reasons. Always carry your ID. Aside from getting into a bar or whatever, if something happens to you (God forbid), you'll be able to be identified. Always carry money. Aside from being able to buy more booze, always have money on you so you can get away from an area or situation that you won't want to be in. Always have your phone. You need to have a line of communication JUST IN CASE you get separated from your group or you need the police.

4. Please don't end up on Pornhub

Just.. please don't. Everything ends up online. Just don't end up on that site.

5. Make sure you have enough money to get home

Obviously.

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Just please be responsible and aware of your surroundings. You can have all the fun you want, but please be careful. I don't want to see any news flashes for unfortunate events that might have happened to you or your friends. Have a great break!

JordynL
JordynL

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