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College Guide - College Guide 2015

Go to college in Atlanta; come out an Atlantan

So, you're new in town. Maybe you're from Marietta or Manhattan or Mumbai. Your main associations with Atlanta are Coca-Cola and Future, and you don't know Peoplestown from Poncey-Highland. This isn't your city.

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Maybe Atlanta is just a four-year stopping point on your road to other places. But the best advice I could give you is: While you're here, be an Atlantan.

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As a freshman, you're already being bombarded by new experiences. There's the smelly roommate, the questionable dining hall food, and, of course, the frat party down the street. It might seem like there's so much going on that you hardly have time to think about being in a city.

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But those four or five years go by in a blur and, suddenly, you're walking across the podium, off to new horizons. That's what happened to me after graduating in May. I'm from Norcross, barely 20 minutes away from Atlanta city limits. But aside from high school visits to Downtown attractions and sneaked trips to Little Five Points, I didn't really have a link with the city before college. When I went to college, I didn't feel like I fit in with much of campus, so I looked outside the bubble, discovering new people and places around town. I grew my own roots here. After graduating, I didn't want to leave — not yet, anyway.

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So, while you're taking advantage of the resources in your classroom (who knows when you'll have the time to learn a language again?), make sure to learn outside of it. Maybe your history class is a little dry. Walk around Old Fourth Ward, where the Civil Rights Movement lived and breathed, instead.

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Try different clubs around campus, but also make time to work, intern, or volunteer at a local business. Organizations such as WonderRoot, the Goat Farm, and Atlanta Film Festival come to mind. That's where you'll meet and interact with others outside of college, people who can teach you lessons just as important as those from your professors. For journalists, getting out into the world is in the job description. The people I spoke to for stories and co-workers I met during jobs showed me so much more than staying in my dorm room ever could.

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Pay attention to local politics and issues. Yes, MARTA has its weaknesses. We know. And let's not even get started on the Atlanta Streetcar. But don't just roll your eyes and move on. Change your voter registration and make a difference in the next election, and look up local transit (and other) advocacy groups and see how you can help. There are a lot of college students in Atlanta, and your vote can count as much as people who have lived here all their lives.

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Don't just party at the fun and familiar college bars in your university's 'hood. Go somewhere completely out of your comfort zone, whether that's a jazz bar (can't go wrong with Churchill Downs), hardcore punk show (Drunken Unicorn and the Masquerade are sure bets), or contemporary art gallery opening (see: Mammal Gallery and Low Museum of Contemporary Culture, both started by college kids).

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If you're a present, active inhabitant in this city, you'll find there's plenty to love here. Who knows? You might just stick around after you graduate.

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— Sonam Vashi, Researcher for The Row at CNN, CL Contributing Writer, and 2013 CL music intern



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