#CelebratingUNC: My Favorite Things About Chapel Hill

I need to open this article with a confession. Until I arrived on UNC’s campus as a first year, I had no intentions to like it but some substantial inclination to dislike it. For all of high school, I had sworn that I would not join the ranks of the Tar Heels: too many of my high school classmates attended Chapel Hill, it was too close to home and not exciting enough for a restless high school senior. However, as a current graduating college senior, I love Chapel Hill and am so sad at the thought of ending my residence here this summer.

People call Chapel Hill the “Southern part of Heaven,” and though such sweet comparisons went saccharine in my seventeen-year-old mind, I have accepted that sometimes clichés exist because of their fundamental kernel of truth. I have been surprised by feeling joy every time I least expected it in the last three years. Here is my love letter to Chapel Hill and Carolina (though don’t get excited and ask me to yell “heels” to your “tar”!).

My first year at Chapel Hill saw me engaged academically as I never had before. I met a group of guys, who were also computer science majors, who adopted me into their group from a calculus class and we’re still close (I attended one of their weddings last summer!). I took classes about Vikings and about John Donne. I met faculty members who challenged and supported me. And during my first year, I learned that I loved UNC’s academic culture and its open arms to those who want to learn. I love that you can always find your tribe and your interest.

 My second year, I got to know Chapel Hill better. I had established friends, and I lived in one of the dorms with auto-locking doors, so I locked myself out several times. I found internships, mentors and connections in pursuit of my computer science major. I started my on-campus job with the best people I’ve ever worked with. That year, I learned that if you can dream it, then you can find a way to do it at UNC; and the more you reach for it, the more you feel like you can do.

 As a junior last year, I moved off campus, did research with a professor from my department and explored the area around UNC, since I got to have my car. I was confident in my major classes and had support networks, and I worked hard and saw the work I had been putting in pay off. With my friends, I explored Durham, Carrboro and Hillsborough, and the more things I did in the area, the more things I found to do. I learned that UNC is at the heart of communities that are diverse, exciting and open if you are willing to get out of your apartment.

Now I’m a senior, and I cannot believe how fast these years have passed. The fact that I will be graduating in Carolina blue in just over six months is amazing. I remember when Franklin Street alone was unfamiliar, but now when I’m out in Chapel Hill, everything I see has memories attached. I went to YoPo for the first time on the second day of my first year with my suitemate, got Chipotle every time I had a calculus exam, went on a first date with a partner I adore two years later at TRU and did the famous birthday shot at Linda’s when I turned 21. It’s incredible to me to see how much Chapel Hill has won my heart and crept into every corner of my life. Now, when people ask me where I go to school, I am so excited to tell them I go to UNC-Chapel Hill and to please look me up if they’re in the area.

You don’t have to agree about the southern part of heaven, but you have to know that you can’t leave Chapel Hill without Carolina on your mind.