Jacksonville, Florida. To be honest, I didn't know this city existed until six years ago. I received a postcard highlighting information about my alma-mater-to-be in October 2006. However, I didn't make the official decision to attend Jacksonville University until February 2007.
Now, nearly six years later, I could not imagine spending my late teen and early twenties anywhere but Jacksonville. Do I want to stay here long-term? That is a rather complex question.
Well, let me explain.
The town or city where you attended college will always be a big part of your life regardless if you stay there for four or forty years. As you navigate through the new chapters of your life after college, your mind may take you back countless times to that college campus and all the challenges you overcame and experiences you had that enriched your life.
This is true for my post-grad experience. For two months after my college graduation, I still could not get away from the campus. Namely because I still lived in the apartments across the street. Regardless, I, an out-of-state student, was lucky enough to still have access to her college campus and friends. While I am currently enjoying living in Jacksonville now, post-grad, I don't see myself settling down here. I don't have family here nor was I successful in snagging a pretty diamond during college. I do have friends, a church family and professional contacts here, but there is something more.
For the last few months I have been making plans to obtain Florida residency in order to attend the University of North Florida, my school's rival, for graduate school. In the fall of 2010, a friend told me about the Global and Latin American focused MBAs that UNF offers. I was intrigued so I researched and learned all I could about the Spanish language focused MBA, more formally known as the IberoAmerican MBA. As soon as I learned the MBA program or cohort, requires you to travel and study at universities in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Madrid, Spain, I was hooked. The only thing was, I was not a Florida resident. I was not about to give up once I saw that I would be forced to pay out-of-state graduate level prices for credit hours. No, I just merely prayed and thought of ways to stay in Jacksonville the following summer as a permanent resident. Getting an apartment and having bills in my name definitely put me on the fast track towards residency. Still, I could not successfully apply for the 2011-2012 program because my offical residency could not be confirmed until this May. May 5th, 2012 to be exact. :)
Having said all that, in the past year I have made a lot of sacrifices for this program and I have not even been accepted for this years cohort, 2013-2014. But I am preparing to take the GRE and apply this summer. Interviews are held in the summer and the program commences in the Winter/Spring. Neither my undergraduate education nor my future graduate education could have been possible if it had not been for this city.
When I leave Jacksonville, which I will at some point in the next 3 years, I will not simply kiss everything about it and everyone goodbye for good. Instead, I will hold this city in my heart for the rest of my life. For without it, its people, universities, organizations, churches, events, concerts, celebrations, I would not be who I am today.
Jacksonville, where Florida begins? Well, for me, it's where my life truly began. :)