After spending 18 years in the city of Miami where the population is about two million, moving to a small college town such as Gainesville, Florida was quite the experience. Along with the challenges that already come with moving away for college, I was thrown into a culture shock after leaving the overwhelming Hispanic culture found in South Florida. Not one cute Latin boy could be found for miles, and the closest thing to a true dance club I could get was Latin-themed nights on Saturdays.
Miami may be one of the largest cities in America, but surprisingly, the entire place is interconnected. Each county is a world of its own, and the people who reside in them have their own town gossip. If you're from Miami, you probably already know someone who knows another person, who knows your second cousin. There is a simultaneous comfort and annoyance in this.
Seeing the opportunity to leave for college and escape the city life, there was a strong desire to leave everything and start fresh in a place where almost no one knew my name or family history. I was excited and afraid of leaving everything I had ever known, which is a common mixture of emotions found in every other college freshman.
Truthfully, I did not expect to miss the overcrowded city, but after two weeks of living over 400 miles away, I learned to appreciate the place I once desperately wanted to escape. Traveling beyond the boundaries of Miami exposed me to a whole other world I was not prepared to accept. Here are seven struggles only Miamians who leave Miami for college could understand:
1. No one understands your Spanglish.
Spanish and English intertwine to create a dialect only understood in the streets of Miami. Gainesville? Not so much.
“Dale” is no longer a commonly used word, and you learn “irregardless” is not even an actual word. Knowing two languages has its consequences, especially when having to stop and explain to your friends what exactly it is you're saying when going on a rampage in Spanish.
2. A "hello" and kiss on the cheek violates comfort zones.
When introducing yourself to another human being, shaking hands is the safest way to go. Trust me.
3. Cuban time no longer exists.
When your friends tell you to meet them at 9 pm, they actually mean 9 pm. You must eventually learn how to use alarm clocks.
4. Cafecito is sadly replaced with Starbucks.
A shot of authentic Cuban coffee can no longer be found two minutes away at the nearest Cuban restaurant. The closest you'll get to Cuban coffee is a shot of espresso in your Starbucks Frappuccino.
5. The reign of Spanish music is overthrown by country pop.
You begin to miss the once irritable, overplayed reggaeton, and you realize no dance club can replace the parties you had with your family in your own backyard.
6. Summer is not year-round.
When the unfamiliar seasons of fall and winter come around, the temperature drops below 80 degrees and sweaters become part of your wardrobe. This is a depressing shift from the ever-sunny, ever-warm Miami weather.
7. You realize you live where people vacation.
There is a sign of excitement that shines through someone's eyes when you tell them you come from Miami. To foreigners, you seem exotic. Even having the area code "305" in your phone number makes you stand out.
There comes a sense of pride in saying the beach was truly your backyard, and you begin to reminisce over the tan you once had. As you tell them everything about your hometown, a sense of nostalgia arises as you remember the smell of a good croqueta sandwiched into warm, Cuban bread.
Yes, the everlasting traffic jams full of road rage and the common occurrences of heat strokes are not exactly missed, but the city and people of Miami have an irreplaceable beauty of their own that cannot be found anywhere else. No matter how far you may go, its crazy, yet unique culture will always stay with you, and you know there is no other place you would rather call home.