Being a local: Not as bad as you might think

Everyone has their “I came to FAMU because” stories. I could exaggerate about why I chose to attend FAMU as oppose to any other college in Florida- I wanted to be surrounded by people who look like me, its journalism program can compete with the best. Blah blah blah, all hail FAMU.

 But honestly, my decision to come to the Hill had a lot to do with the fact that it’s less than 10 minutes away from my mother’s house. Yes, you guessed it. I’m a local.

When I started at FAMU, people’s emphasis on where they were from was slightly overwhelming. When exchanging phone numbers, asking for someone’s area code became a must.

Coming to FAMU was almost like leaving Tallahassee. FAMU Homecoming became a week-long event instead of a weekend celebration. A lot of times people knew where you were from without knowing your name.

The standard introduction of yourself included your name, major and, of course, your hometown.

My normal introduction would be, “My name is Terrika Mitchell and I’m a first-year magazine production student from Tallahassee.”

Reactions were priceless. It seemed as if other students stared and whispered like there was a passion mark on my neck.

“My slight lisp must have taken over and made my sentence unclear,” I reasoned. But nope, that wasn’t the case.

I became what out-of-towners refer to as “a local,” or even worse, “a loc.” I would get the “Oh, you’re a local?” I was more so offended by the way the question was asked rather than the question itself. I’d ask, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

It’s natural for a person to defend his or her hometown. Sure Tallahassee doesn’t sell liquor after 2 a.m., and the closest thing we have to a pro-team is Florida State, but I too take a personal pride in my hometown.

As I transitioned into the college community, I sometimes felt outnumbered more and more by students from other areas. License plates said Dade, Orange or Broward counties where I used to see Leon; even Georgia residents seemed to have a bigger presence.

Even in our own clubs— the Moon, Bajas, pick any one— we still can’t get any love.  I constantly endure the rumbling chants of Duval natives and the uncontrolled jukes of South Floridians who are shouted out by the DJ. I consider the city lucky to get recognition during semester breaks when locals are the majority in the nightclub.

Initially, I was in disbelief that Tallahassee couldn’t get love in Tallahassee!  This was all new to me.

It got to the point where I sometimes wished I had some other place to claim as home; somewhere with naturally grown palm trees or predictable weather or at least two legit shopping malls. I fled town when I could to visit my friends’ hometowns, to shop and to see what I’d allegedly been missing out on.  It taught me something.

Not only did it expose me to new things I liked, but it also revealed the things I could live without.

Somewhere between having to watch my back on a ride through Liberty City and becoming deathly ill from taking part in a heated snowball fight I understood that there was really no place like home.

I’m proud that Tallahassee doesn’t have to house the production crew for First 48.

When you give it some thought, “locals” are the fortunate ones.

I’m one of the few people with an uncle on campus who’ll yell my name clear across Set Friday.  Grandma’s collard greens and chicken are always minutes away so holiday travel is optional. And believe it or not, the city still operates when visiting students leave to go home.

Now this is not to say that I have plans to stay in Tallahassee forever. In fact, I’m currently making arrangements to leave after I graduate this year, but that is because of my career goals.

I will always enjoy coming home to cozy Tallahassee no matter how behind the times it may seem.