Being a girl from the suburbs, going to Georgia State University really changed my outlook on life. I was introduced to a world that I could have never begun to understand if I had stayed in my small town. Not to down small towns or those who stay; I just know that my whole life would have been different if I never read, “Welcome to Georgia State University.”
The reason I thought I was going.
At the time, when I got accepted into schools, I didn’t know what I wanted to go for. So, when it came to choosing, I chose purely off of location. Do not do that. It worked out for me, but it was stupid to choose a school purely for that reason.
The other schools were just like home, one was literally in my hometown. I knew that it would be like high school, but on a larger scale. I would be in a similar environment with similar people. At Georgia State University, I was offered an urban environment with a diverse population; two things I would not get at my other options.
It was settled there. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, so I went. I would be lying if I said I didn’t regret that decision almost immediately.
I had a true love-hate relationship with Atlanta. There were certain areas that were beautiful and others that scared the living daylights out of me. I had a really idealistic view of what an urban society was and also was aware of how others described an “urban” population, but neither was true.
It showed me that reality is always somewhere in the middle. While Atlanta wasn’t the magnetic metropolis where my worries would fade away, it also was a crime-ridden hellscape where you needed a police escort everywhere. Now, I’m definitely not saying to live your best life without regard. Taking every precaution for your safety is the smart and advised thing to do.
When I decided to go to Georgia State, I never thought about seeing homeless people. I came from a place where there weren’t many, so my understanding of homelessness was basically non- existent. Georgia State University is an open campus, however, so the lines between students and residents are blurred. It really left a mark on me, seeing people who were so incredibly down on their luck. Every time the weather was bad, I would feel terrible knowing that not everyone could get out of the rain like I could.
When I volunteered at a local homeless shelter, it was my first time to come face to face with someone who was homeless and I didn’t find people who were trying to abuse the system or who were lazy; I saw people trying to rebuild and reclaim dignity that was so easily stripped away from them every time another person passed them on the street without acknowledging their presence.
As disturbing and tragic some of the things I witnessed were, I know that I would have never been exposed to that reality elsewhere. I was forever humbled by their experience, and grateful for my own.
While attending Georgia State, I was able to meet so many people from different walks of life. The school prides itself off of its diversity, and I must say, there is a lot to brag about there. As a rule of thumb, you can never go wrong with meeting people who think and look differently from you. So much ignorance that I had was swept away just by meeting and understanding new people.
I don’t pride myself on my ignorance back then, but I am so grateful of all the wonderful people that I met who helped me see a new way of life. There is this saying that is very true; “You cannot hate someone whose story you don’t know.”