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Skyscrapers to Sunstop: Navigating the Cultural Shift From Miami to Tallahassee

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

In many movies and TV shows, it seems like the main character can’t wait to leave their small hometown and venture to a big city for college. As a little girl, I shared that same sentiment. I dreamed of getting out of my hometown. That was until I got older and realized that Miami is one of the biggest cities in the world, and there were many things to do when you weren’t a little kid. As my dorm move-in day became increasingly close, I began to appreciate the place I grew up in.

Waking up in Miami, even on the more mundane days, it seemed like the city and its people were always lively. When going grocery shopping, I was surrounded by an array of flavorful Hispanic dishes, seasonings, and the Spanish language. I was always surrounded by my vivacious family members and friends that I had known since our days of watching My Little Pony together. Even when school was stressful or I was feeling under the weather, I had a support system to lean on, all within a 30-minute drive from me. In the summer, when it sank in that it would turn into an eight-hour drive, I couldn’t help but feel anxious. 

When I went to freshman orientation, I realized how different North Florida was from South Florida. I no longer heard Spanish everywhere I went, and I started to feel like a minority for one of the first times in my life. I never knew how hard that realization would hit me since I had no other frame of reference after living in a large city my whole life. I was aware that assimilating to Tallahassee would contrast with what I knew before, yet I was motivated to make the best of my college years and take advantage of my opportunity to leave home to pursue higher education. 

The party scene in the Tallahassee area is nonstop. It can be all-consuming, especially as a freshman. I succumbed to going out excessively in the fall, only to feel bored and restless on days when I wouldn’t. In the spring semester, I decided to spend my downtime a bit differently and adventure through different aspects of Tally. 

Cherokee Sink landscape
Original photo by Maya Shah

One of the best decisions I made freshman year was going to Cherokee Sink with my friends. After around a 30-minute hike engulfed by large trees that shaded us, we finally reached the sink. 

It was breathtaking. I had never seen water so blue in my life. I felt like I was in a National Geographic documentary. When I left my home of high-rises and busy beaches, I had entered a new world that I didn’t know I was neglecting. Nature was not something I ever thought much about, as I never considered myself to be the outdoorsy type, but I realized that was simply because I had never truly been exposed to nature in this capacity. 

Northern Florida has so many beautiful landscapes and activities that I missed out on in the fall due to homesickness. Although the separation from my family and friends hit hard, I was not helping myself by overlooking what Tallahassee and the surrounding area had to offer, besides the party scene. Becoming more involved on campus and strengthening my bonds with friends allowed me to feel more at home at Florida State, despite my original apprehension. 

The transition from your hometown, no matter how big or small, to your college town can be daunting. I spent most of my summer before move-in panicked and uncertain. Once I opened my heart and mind toward embracing where I ended up for school, I realized that in making one of the most life-changing decisions, I had chosen the most fruitful one at FSU. 

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Maya Shah is a staff writer at Her Campus at the FSU chapter. She is a Marketing major with a minor in Hispanic Marketing Communications.