The Goodbye is an occasional series about women leaving a place behind. Are you moving and feeling nostalgic? Fill out this form, and you could be part of the series.
Just a couple of months ago, I graduated from college. Pomp and circumstance barely begin to describe the occasion; Queens University of Charlotte’s campus, located in Charlotte, N.C., was fully decked out. And yet, in many ways, graduation felt like any other university event to me. I walked along brick sidewalks that I had known for four years, chatted with long-time friends and shook the hand of my college’s president, whom I knew well.
I couldn’t quite process the fact that I was finally graduating — finally moving on with my life and away from the city that I had grown to love.
It had always been serendipitous that I ended up in Charlotte for college. I had been born there, but my family moved to Florida and California soon after. Charlotte became our go-to destination for concerts and special shopping outings, but when I returned to the city during my senior year of high school, it had a new spark.
Queens University is not well-known — not even within Charlotte. Like many high school students, I had my heart set on going to a big city school with a credible academic reputation, somewhere far from home. Queens barely checked any of these boxes. Still, from the second I stepped foot on the campus one foggy Sunday to appease my parents, I knew that it would be an important place for me. I kept going back for campus tours, scholarship information sessions and admissions events, continuing to feel more and more connected to the city and to the university.
I am the first to admit that the main reason I chose Queens was because of the full-tuition scholarship I received. But I was also interested in the school’s well-established connections within the city and its exceptional internship and study abroad programs. For me, college meant more than just academics. It was also a time to gain career experience, get involved in the community, immerse myself in new cultures. Queens offered this, and more, through both the freedom of few student loans and an environment that fosters experiential learning.
Without a doubt, I took advantage of every opportunity that I came across during my college career. I interned nearly every semester while also earning money through odd jobs, such as babysitting and dog walking. I completed two study abroad programs: a semester in Wales and a language immersion in France. I was the president of the university’s dance club. I volunteered with nonprofit organizations to help vulnerable groups in Charlotte and around the country.
It was an insanely busy time, as I tried to fit internships, part-time jobs, academics and a social life into my schedule. Still, my years as a Queens Royal were some of the best because of great friends, attentive professors and professional connections.
After finally reconnecting with Charlotte, it’s strange to say goodbye.
But by my senior year, I was beyond ready to begin the next stage of my life. I was longing for new adventures; I was tired of my grueling course schedule and being away from the good friends I had made studying abroad.
Now, I’m saying goodbye to streets that I know like the back of my hand, and bars that I’ll never get a great beer from again. I’m leaving behind people who know all the local lingo and inside jokes I’ve come to love, from referring to the city center as Uptown to students’ constant riffs on the school’s slogans.
In the fall, I will be attending graduate school in the United Kingdom. Even though it is only a one-year program, I hope to remain abroad after I earn my master’s degree. It will likely be a long time before I am back in the United States, let alone before I walk the streets of Charlotte again.
As I leave, I’m realizing how much I’ll miss in Charlotte; it will forever be the place where I started my life and spent a very defining part of it. Though I will be far, I will never forget all that the city gave me.
Red brick will forever hold a special place in my heart, and it will always remind me of my four years at Queens University of Charlotte. Each building, fountain and perfectly landscaped lawn was a backdrop for meeting new friends and discovering my academic passions.
It was here, during my multiple government internships, where I discovered my passion for local governance and rubbed elbows with city leaders: experiences I never thought I could have as a college student. The first time I walked into the mayor’s top-floor office and saw the cityscape spread out beyond the glass windows, I knew that I one day wanted to be elected mayor, too.
I’m a complete nerd for public transportation systems. Whenever I visit a big city, I ride subways and metros as if they’re tourist attractions. Charlotte’s light rail is no exception, and Seventh Street Market and North Davidson are my favorite stops on the line. The rail also offers stunning views of the city as the trains pass through Uptown.
Ballroom dance has been a hobby of mine since I was very young, but the studio options in my hometown were limited and took a traditional approach. I rekindled my love for ballroom in Charlotte after meeting local instructors through my university’s dance club. Midtown Ballroom and its dancers introduced me to a new side of dance that was exciting, expressive and innovative.
In most cities, bars are the go-to spots for hanging out and drinking with friends, but in Charlotte, breweries dominate the nightlife scene. Local creations are always on tap, showcasing the unique methods and flavors used by Charlotte brewers. From Pilot Brewing, my favorite microbrewery, to Common Market, the hippest bottle shop in the city, I have been spoiled for choice.
This distinctive hot dog joint was my family’s go-to lunch spot when my parents were visiting. You can never go wrong with any of their cheap signature toppings, and their tater tots are to die for.
For me, the city buildings’ clear blue glass during the day and their glittering lights at night always represented progress. They also reminded me that I was living in a big city. Whenever I was going through a stressful time at school, I would drive through Uptown, open the windows and sunroof of my car, blast my favorite songs and watch the urban life pass me by. Now, I wish I had driven through the city at night one last time before leaving.
Visiting Charlotte? See Olivia’s recommendations mapped out here.