When I moved from Santa Barbara to Emporia in fourth grade, the first thing I wanted to do was get out of this town.

Growing up in a city with about 100,000 people in it, I felt like Emporia was too small, cramped even. For the longest time I was embarrassed to live in a somewhat rural community.

Over the last twelve years, my opinion of small-town life has pivoted completely. What Emporia may lack in variety, it more than makes up for in personality and community.

While not only having some of the best tap water I’ve ever had, Emporia has a lot to offer.

From monthly art showcases for First Friday, the Great American Flea Market to the seasonal farmers market, I’ve seen so many people come together in ways I would have never seen had I, ironically, stayed in a bigger city. I would have never seen what a truly clear night sky looks like when you’re driving through the flint hills.

As I approach my graduation date, I have to consider where I’d like to live next. As my brother considers ivy league schools in bustling cities, I find myself drawn to small town life, away from the six lanes of traffic and closer to nature and my neighbors. Living across the street from ESU I've come to really appreciate the fact I can walk from one side of campus to the other and still have time to grab a bite between classes.

While Emporia may only have about 25,000 people in it on a good day, I continue to meet new people and explore new nooks and crannies of this little city. I’ve spent countless hours staring at the Cottonwood river as it floods past the All Veterans Memorial with the helicopter I played on in elementary school.

Emporia has taught me that a town isn’t defined by the amount of people that live there, but how they live together. Every time I eat at a local shop or cruise down Commercial Street, I am reminded of all the big living happening in this small-town life.

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