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

I’ve always been a city girl. Living in Chicago is all I’ve ever known. Being a city girl has become a big part of my identity, and I feel most at home in cities. When I was applying to college, living in a city was my top priority; I just couldn’t see myself being happy in a small town or rural area. I thrive when I am surrounded by lots of people, things to do and places to explore. I love strolling through parks, trying out new restaurants, going to museums and even just walking through different neighborhoods. As a result, I only applied to colleges that were in cities. And as fate would have it, I ended up in St. Louis. 

It didn’t take me long to notice the downsize from the third largest city in the U.S. to about the 70th. I knew that St. Louis was quite a bit smaller than Chicago, but I didn’t realize how stark the difference was from roughly 2.7 million people to roughly 293,000 people. I quickly realized that I would not have the same city girl experience. When I pictured the downsize, I expected St. Louis to simply have fewer neighborhoods that were still grouped around a city center. While some of this is reflected in St. Louis’s layout, there simply is not the same city center or downtown experience. One Friday afternoon, I walked around a neighborhood that reminded me of many in Chicago, and I was shocked by how few people were out and about. In the same neighborhood in Chicago, there would be twice as many people taking advantage of the nice day and fun restaurants nearby.

One of the things I found most surprising though was how few people from Chicago go to Saint Louis University (SLU). There are many people who will tell you they are from Chicago, but when asked more specifically, most of the time, they will clarify that they are actually from a suburb. People are always surprised to hear me name the neighborhood that I live in and the fact that I am actually from the city. After a semester at SLU I’ve interacted with maybe two other students who are actually from the city. Initially this was really isolating. I was happy to branch out on my own, rather than go to a college with a lot of people I already knew, but I was sure that I’d encounter more real Chicagoans, especially considering that St. Louis is not far. 

There are certain things about being from Chicago, as with any place, that only people who live in the city understand. Originally, I felt like no one could relate to my experience. Having lived in Chicago my whole life, I didn’t notice what experiences were unique to me. I find myself constantly explaining the weird school system I went to and the complex public transportation routes I took to go to school, and the fact that I didn’t get my driver’s license until I turned eighteen comes as a big surprise to people I meet. I was shocked at how little people from other cities used their transportation systems. These small things are just the tip of the iceberg. There are some things about living in a big city that suburban kids or small-city kids will never understand. 

Despite the isolation I felt, and sometimes still feel, I’ve found so many other things to connect with other students about. While being a city girl is a big part of my identity, it is certainly not the only part. Even though I come from a somewhat unique place, there are so many other students who are the only people from their towns, cities and states. There is a connection to be found in isolation. The more new people I meet, the more equally unique experiences I find.

Even though I miss many things about my hometown, I’ve come to appreciate the many charms of a small city. I love that I can explore a whole new place, and I’ve come to know the many things that make St. Louis a unique place to live. 

Rather than dwelling on my singularity, I have begun to embrace the uniqueness of my Chicagoan identity: my 312 area code, the fact that I take the Amtrak all the way to Union Station and especially my love for the Cubs, despite how controversial that is in St. Louis. I will always be a city girl, but I’ve come to realize that embracing that will be different wherever I am. 

Writer and Section Editor at HERCampus Saint Louis University (currently at the Madrid campus), double majoring in English and History. Chicagoan, Volleyball player, Survivor superfan, baker, and lover of the band First Aid Kit, puzzles and card games.