One of the very first things I noticed when I relocated to the city of East Lansing, Michigan from my small town of Allegan, MI to go to Michigan State University was that I grew up very different from other students there, even those who came from the other side of the state. Growing up in a small town, you're almost sheltered from the way other people live because your small-town life is all you know. Here are 11 things I quickly learned after moving to MSU.
1. My town is even smaller than I thought.
I was shocked when my friends told me they had 500 to 700 people in their graduating class. That was the same size as my entire high school. They told me that they would sit through graduation and wonder "who is that, I've never seen them before in my life." My graduating class was made up of 120 people, and I knew everyone's name and had talked to all of them at least once. My town has 10,000 people, while the cities my friends grew up in had a population of 50,000 people. I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that some people grew up in cities that were five times the size of my town.
2. It's hard to find peace and quiet.
Back home I could take a five-minute drive and be able to find a spot in the woods to be alone. Even just 20 minutes away I could get to Lake Michigan and have some time to clear my thoughts. I don't have that here. If I want to find a woodsy area here, it would take me over 40 minutes to find a spot where I can be alone. There aren't any big lakes around. I really just can't find a place to take time for myself like back home.
3. Hunting isn't as important everywhere else.
Opening day was basically a holiday in my town. Half of our school would be gone that day because their favorite day of the year had come. Hunting was one of the biggest hobbies for people where I grew up. Even though I don't hunt, I know what goes into it. My older brother has told me all about it: waking up at 4 a.m. to go scout a spot, spending $300 on a hunting tent, sitting for hours not even knowing if you'll get a deer or a duck or a goose that day. Venison was a staple. My favorite part about hunting season was when my older brother would bring us venison jerky. Once I got to college, it was surprising to me that other cities didn't take hunting as seriously as our town did.
4. I don't know 99% of the people at my college.
Everyone knew everyone where I grew up. My family couldn't even go to the store without my dad running into someone he knew. Even if you had never met someone before, you still knew their name. You had no private life, whether you started dating someone or broke up, you would always run into them. Whenever I go home, no matter where I go I run into someone I know. At college, I can go about my entire day and not see one single person I know on campus. No one knows anyone's life here. Someone could get pregnant or get an MIP and no one would know.
5. You don't have to drive 40 minutes to get to a store.
I never had Starbucks until college. In my hometown, it would take me 40 minutes to get to the mall, Target, Chipotle -any store I wanted to go to was far away. Now I can drive 10 minutes and get to all of those. I was never able to just do a quick run to the mall, we had to make a day out of it. Now, I can do a quick mall run and only spend 30 minutes. There's six Starbucks on campus. I can basically get to any restaurant I want in a few minutes when it used to take up my whole day back home.
6. Everything at college stays open past midnight.
This is one of the nicest things about college. In my hometown, everything closed at 5 p.m. We only had one fast food place that was open for 24 hours, but that even started closing earlier. If it's 1 a.m. and I'm hungry, there's a ton of places I can get food at. Back home, I'd have to drive 20 to 40 minutes just to get a milkshake.
7. People don't know what ground nesting bees are.
I don't know why this is the most surprising thing on the list, but it is. I just thought it was common knowledge that ground-nesting bees existed. You had to be careful playing outside barefoot or even when you mowed the lawn. The fact that other people have never dealt with, or even heard of, ground-nesting bees is just unbelievable to me. Every time I tell someone about them they give me this weird look that reads, "What the heck are ground bees?" Ground-nesting bees were a huge fear of mine growing up - you never wanted to be the unlucky one to step on an underground nest.
8. Beef, lamb, and goat shows are a foreign concept to other people.
This is just a normal thing at our county fair. I went to watch friends show their cows and pigs. When I've brought this up to my friends, I get a confused look again. Many people in my town had farms with livestock that they would raise to take to one of these shows at the fair. One of my friends growing up had pigs that she raised to show. Showing farm animals was just a normal thing in my hometown.
9. Backroads aren't a thing in some cities, especially in college.
Driving down a backroad late at night was one of the most therapeutic things I did after I got my license. Every road out of town was a backroad. Driving with the windows down, blaring music - that was one of the best things we all loved to do in the summer. One of the worst things about going to a big school is that I have to drive over 20 minutes to even get to a backroad. In my hometown, I drove on backroads all the time, while people I've met at college barely ever drove on them. They didn't even know that as soon as you're on a backroad, you automatically know the speed limit is 55. I thought this was something everyone knew, and was surprised to find out that quite a few people didn't know about this.
10. Paying at parking in college.
I HATE this. I can't describe how much I hate this. I can't park anywhere without having to pay. And if I don't pay I get a ticket. I can't even park on the street overnight without getting a ticket. Everywhere I went to at home had free parking so I never knew that paying for parking was a thing. Whenever I walk to my car and see I have a ticket on the windshield I feel my blood boil. This is one of the dumbest things about college. We already pay enough, but PLEASE add more financial stress on us.
11. I miss living in a completely natural area.
Living in a city without much nature SUCKS. I miss being surrounded by the woods. I miss being able to drive five minutes away and be able to go kayaking or take a hike. Growing up, all we did was play in the woods, making forts or stick-fighting. It's weird to go from living in a natural area to living somewhere with no woods to be found.
I used to always hate on my small town. But now that I'm at a big college, I'm starting to miss the little things I took for granted. I don't regret going to a big college, but it'll never be the same as where I grew up.