Whether you’re a grad student continuing your education, or a recent college graduate working in or around a university, living in a college town/city when you’re no longer an undergrad can be awkward.
Not still the young, undergraduate college kid, but also not quite the older, experienced working woman or man, it can be tricky to try to figure out your place when you’re off the younger student scene but still surrounded by it.
Back to Richmond
Following my graduation from Virginia Tech, I moved back to the city where I spent my first two years of undergrad at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). While I had always wanted to move back to my beloved Richmond after I graduated from my southern state school, Virginia Tech, I had no idea how different (and awkward!) it would be living in the city that houses a university as a graduate myself.
Beginning my second journey living in the city of Richmond, all was well. I fell in love all over again with the hustle and bustle and artsy vibes of my ‘new old’ city. I visited all the old hotspots I had once loved as a student here and reminisced on the memories they brought back to mind.
The good ol' days
Sunny Saturdays were spent at Belle Isle, my old happy place. My hours after work were my reunion time with the VCU library, aka my favorite place on earth and one frequented often during my time as a student at VCU. Weekend mornings were done right, brunching all over the city at my freshman year faves; and those of weekdays, simply stopping by coffee shops on my way to work such as Lift and The Lab by Alchemy Coffee, which I had gratefully discovered my sophomore year.
Revisiting these old favorites of mine from my first 2 years in Richmond brought on a bittersweet nostalgia. I loved the feeling of being back, absolutely, but it was also slightly sad to remember all the amazing times had in these places that are now the past.
Back to school
Since classes have started up again, the transformation of the city back into an oversized college campus has begun; and I no longer feel I fit in as well as I did in earlier months of summer heat and absent undergrads.
Living in a city as an “official adult,” being out of school and employed full-time, seeing the students out and about can bring on further nostalgia and sadness, and a longing for what my life was only a few months ago—a broke but blissful college kid. Although I miss Tuesday Turn Up nights and the hyper high that came with caffeinated college classes, I remind myself of all I have (thankfully) moved on from and what I have to look forward to in the future.
So if you’re feeling down and/or out of place being in a college town/city when you’re no longer that uber-youthful undergrad, here are some tips and things to keep in mind:
- Make friends with people at your same stage of life. "Age is just a number”; we hear it a lot when it comes to romantic relationships, but what about friends? People your age may very well still be in school, so don’t focus on the number, instead, seek out those in a similar situation. If you have friends in a similar or same stage of life as you, it can make missing the past, well, a thing of the past.
- Focus on your future goals—you are that much closer now that you’re out of school! You can do anything you want, so go out and make it happen. I believe in you!
- Take a trip, and visit old friends. Whether you’re in the same college city/town as where you attended school yourself, or if you’re in a new city/town home to a university, head back to your roots for a day—maybe literally, maybe just mentally. See some old pals every now and then and live up a night or two as if you’re still an undergrad yourself.
- Note: this is not an activity advised to be put into constant practice, rather, just when you need a pick me up. If you continue to dwell on the past and the good ol’ undergrad days, how will you move on to the future or even live in the present?
- My biggest tip for you: simply enjoy this new stage of life—adulthood. Being an adult brings a whole new set of challenges, yes. But with that being said, it also brings on a whole new set of fun, freedoms, and adventure.
- Focus on yourself and exploring this stage of life and the opportunities it presents. This is a time to reconnect with and revamp yourself if you so choose. So make an effort to focus on your health and mental well-being, reflect on your current situation, and set goals for the immediate and far off futures to get you even more encouraged and excited to dive into this new life stage. You are ready for this!
Things to keep in mind
- You’re on to bigger and better things. First, let's focus on the fact that you most likely are DONE with studying! Yes, no more late nights cramming unimportant info into your head that you’re sure to forget as soon as the test is over (hopefully, not before).
- More sleep to keep you sane. Whether it be an all-nighter preparing that paper due the next morning or a Sunday Funday of shots and binge drinking, you hopefully have the opportunity to regain all that sleep you missed out on in college over the past few years!
- Mature relationships are on the horizon. Let’s face it, a lot of the student population wasn’t looking or ready for real relationships and commitments. If you’re one of those people anxiously awaiting that fateful day when you meet your future spouse, you’re likely closer to that opportunity now. If not, let’s all just appreciate the fact that you’re in a different market now of real adults, the opportunities for new friendships and relationships are endless!
- Those four (or more, or less) years of undergrad were not for nothing! Now is the time when you can put all you’ve learned to use. Having a big girl/big boy job is exciting and rewarding (and you no longer have to refer to yourself as a broke college kid).
Look forward to adulthood
I’ve realized that while I may miss my college kid days, there are even better days to come in adult life. Seeing kids on campus now just reminds me to be happy for the fun times I had during my years of undergrad, but to be even more grateful that I never have to go through the “Freshman 15” or finals ever again! Cheers to that!