For many, Gainesville is just a temporary home while these individuals seek their degree - a town just small enough so you still have that "down home feel," yet big enough so Saturday nights aren't spent glued in front of a television watching reruns of "Law and Order." However, you can always hear the constant grumblings of students who are sick of the club scene and have walked through the Oaks Mall one too many times.
To me, Gainesville is home. Being raised in The Gator Nation grants me constant bragging rights. Not only am I a student here and therefore a Gator, but I am also a Gainesvillian. I am proud to be a local, and I am proud to represent the 352. I am honored to be called an ACR - Alachua County Resident, for all who are clueless on the local lingo.
When you pack up your bags and go home for the summer, I am still here, basking in The Gator Nation's glory. So when you hear the jeers about what a "lame" town this is and how no student cares about the local flavor of Gainesville, take a step back and see the bigger picture.
Although nearly 50,000 of the 108,655 people, according to the U.S. Census 2006 population estimate, who inhabit this city are students, others live here as well - from children to the elderly, and even families.
You see, Gainesville isn't that much different from any other town, except that we have a top-notch university and community college that are academic and athletic forces to be reckoned with.
I bet if you would stop whining about how bored you are and step outside of your apartment - other than to go to class and to get your groove on at clubs and parties - you would see that Gainesville really isn't any different than where you are from. We have high schools just like you that win state championships in numerous sports. We have local restaurants with amazing menus ranging from Southern cooking to high-end fondue. Award-winning doctors work at Shands at UF. Visit one of our state parks, where any nature lover's fantasy will be satisfied.
Deep down, Gainesville isn't just any college town. Take a look around and venture in to what this city has to offer. Take a bite out of a Belgian waffle at locally-owned 43rd Street Deli. Stand under the lights at Citizens Field and reminisce about your high school days as local football teams battle it out to see which team will reign as city champ. Float down an icy, spring-water river at Ichetucknee Springs and witness the beauty of nature. Ride go-karts, rollerskate and play minigolf at Skate Station. College life is supposed to have a dab of fun thrown in, so don't waste every penny on nightlife when this city has so much more to offer.
Go explore. Venture into the unknown and appreciate the next few years of your life here in Gainesville. Although we "locals" could do without the hoards of students clogging the roadways, we have come to appreciate the diversity students bring to town. Realize that Gainesville is so much more than bars, Gators games and classes. Although we all appreciate these things, I challenge you to find something else to fall in love with in this wonderful city. Trust me, it's easy. I've been living here and surviving (imagine that!) for 20 years. I'm sure you can too.
Alison Posey is a junior majoring in telecommunications.