Ah, Emporia, KS. It’s hard to fully sum up the way I feel about this place. It’s really nothing special, but yet it really, really is.
We were 18 when we first moved here. Barely out of high school, we decided to come here for school on a whim, thanks to cheap tuition rates and a burning desire to leave our hometown in our rearview mirror. We had next to no money and no job prospects lined up, but we came anyway. Whether that was naïve or brilliant, it’s hard to say; probably a little bit of both.
I remember how excited I was the day we moved here for good, as the Emporia water tower grew larger and larger as we pulled in from the highway. We had spent our whole lives under our parents’ roofs; now it was time to have our own. Everything felt so exciting that first summer; shopping for groceries, failed attempts at cooking, walking around town, scoping out restaurants we didn’t have in Pittsburg – heck, even paying bills felt exciting. It was our first taste of the adult world and we couldn’t get enough.
By the time school started, we were already in love with Emporia simply because it wasn’t Pittsburg. As time went on though, we began to appreciate Emporia for what it really has to offer: the community. While the ESU campus may be a bit drab compared to other, larger universities and the town basically dies at 6:00 PM, Emporia is a town with a lot of heart. From our very first day, we noticed how friendly the people are. (For example, the Walmart greeters actually greet you here…with a smile! In Pittsburg, they sigh and give you a glare that is the equivalent of a middle finger for daring to walk in their store and give them more work to do.) At ESU, we had AMAZING professors who actually cared about their students, knew our names, and were always there to provide support when needed. Our campus jobs gave us both so many opportunities and introduced us to so many fantastic people, and will probably forever be some of the best jobs we’ll ever have. We made so many great friends, and as a result, many great memories.
Slowly but surely, this town has molded us from a couple of clueless teenagers into a pair of semi-competent young adults. It’s hard to believe that our time here is quickly coming to an end. In the coming days, we will be packing up the few belongings we haven’t already sold and will never live here again. Though I’m ready to move on to bigger things, it will be hard to leave a place that has meant so much to us. As the sand runs low on the hourglass of our time here, I want to acknowledge this place that has forever changed me and shaped who I am and I want to thank all of the wonderful people and places who have been a part of that.
Thank you to all of our fabulous friends throughout the years here for the love and the memories.
Thank you to all of the faculty and staff at ESU for a great education and unending support. Thank you for treating me as a person, not a name on a roster. Thank you for encouraging me to challenge myself and for being there for me when times were tough.
Thank you to the Office of International Education for teaching me the value of working hard at work worth doing. Thank you for being amazing, and for all of the wonderful memories and experiences. I will cherish that time forever.
Thank you to our first landlady for helping us move out of our apartment and cancel our lease when we suddenly had to move back to Pittsburg. Thank you for your kindness and understanding.
Thank you to the community who rallied around us without a second thought during that darkest hour.
Thank you to our current landlord, who gave us the last available apartment at a discount, even though there were others who wanted it who could pay more.
Thank you to FHCHC for giving me my first shot at a “real” job and for believing in me, despite the fact that I still look like I’m in high school and had little experience when I started. I have grown so much these past two years and have been privileged to do such important work for an awesome community.
Thank you to the people at Planet Sub who always know our order and top our salads generously.
Thank you to the Granada for not being Starbucks and for having great coffee.
Thank you to Radius for having alcohol on Sundays.
Thank you to all of the lovely parks and walking places for being a constant source of relaxation and inspiration.
Most of all, thank you for teaching me that home isn’t really about a place at all. Home is a state of mind. Home is about people, experiences, memories, and love.
Thank you, Emporia. It’s been real.