Despite costs, many students seek city life after graduation

Despite+costs%2C+many+students+seek+city++life+after+graduation

Phoebe Rees

Ask any young person where they dream of living and working when they’re older, and they’ll probably answer New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. Big cities are top destinations, especially for young Southerners.

“People want to get away from what they know and experience new things,” Michael Patrick, a recent University of Alabama graduate currently living in Chicago, said. “Young and talented people want to find other young, talented people, but Alabama just currently does not have that job market or environment.”

More students at The University of Alabama aspire to live and work in big cities, but for those who have grown up in the state, leaving the South can be a dramatic transition.

Patrick grew up in a small, rural town just outside of Montgomery. With only 64 students in his high school graduating class, he said coming to The University of Alabama was a big transition.

“Going to college was the first major move in my life,” Patrick said. “I had grown up in the same small town for most of my life, so I never considered going out of state. I was a first-generation college student, so it wasn’t really feasible or affordable.”

Upon graduating from the University in 2012, Patrick said he wanted to get away from the South and experience different surroundings. He enrolled in the Teach for America program and relocated to Chicago. He said he found adjusting to life outside of the South hasn’t been too difficult.

“It’s definitely tough at first, getting used to the hustle and bustle of a place,” he said. “But once you start meeting people and getting to know your way around, it becomes more comfortable. There was a transition period where I missed home all the time, but after about six months, it became easier.”

Patrick said his favorite aspect of living in a large city is the diverse atmosphere.

“I like the experience of meeting people who have wholly different cultures to your own,” he said. “Even at college, most people come from similar backgrounds – religious white kids from some suburb or rural town, but here I have friends from India and Hong Kong. The array of religious and political beliefs people have makes for interesting conversation, and I’ve learned a lot about the world and gained a greater perspective.”

For other students, the desire to leave the South is political. Sam Gerard, a junior majoring in history and political science, said the conservative nature of the South can perturb liberal students from wanting to remain in the state after graduation.

Originally from New York, Gerard is now president of the UA College Democrats. He said conservatives have more of a voice in the state and on campus.

“Due to the political culture in Alabama, if you come out as a Democrat, or if you come out as somebody who leans left on issues, then you get basically blackballed from any further engagement,” Gerard said. “There’s a stigma that exists here that you have to be a gun-toting Republican to really be popular.”

Gerard said liberals such as himself must pursue their political ambitions outside of Alabama.

“My goal after graduation is to find a blue state and a nice Jewish girl,” he said. “It’s not the age for me to have a political career in Alabama, but there are rapidly changing demographics in the state that are making it easier for Democrats to get elected.”

According to a February 2013 article by The Atlantic, 45 percent of college graduates move back home with their parents after finishing school, giving them the nickname “the boomerang generation.”

However, Patrick said he thinks young people in the South are becoming more mobile.

“I think more people at this age feel more comfortable moving away because of the way technology keeps us together,” he said. “Young people can cope with not going home for longer periods of time and look for job opportunities away from where they grew up.”