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Georgia State students trek through Metro Atlanta to get to class

Georgia State students trek through Metro Atlanta to get to class. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

Every day, Panthers hustle around campus, spend time with friends and take classes with the urban sprawl of Atlanta as the backdrop.

Georgia State has 53,000 students, making it the 10th largest public school in the country, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

According to U.S. News and World Report, 79% of students live off-campus, while 21% of students live in university-owned or affiliated housing. 

Junior Erica Browne is among the students living on campus. Since transferring to Georgia State, Browne has lived at Dwell ATL and currently resides at the Mix, where she enjoys the views of the city. 

Browne said the best part of life on campus is her 12-minute walks to class, which she called a “blessing.” Living in a popular building like the Mix, though, Browne said she always has to be prepared.

“You really do see everyone and their mom on campus at all times,” Browne said. “So you have to be ready for whoever you’re going to see in the elevator or just at Racetrac or something because you really do see everyone everywhere.” 

Browne is a member of the Neuroscience Honors Society, NAACP and more. She believes that life on campus has allowed her to dedicate more time to extracurricular activities. 

Freshman Franky Huang feels that his commute is a barrier between him and on-campus involvement.

To get to campus, Huang drives from Duluth to the Doraville MARTA station. From there, he rides the Gold Line to Five Points and switches trains to head downtown. To make this possible, and to skip the morning rush, Huang leaves his house by 6 a.m. 

“It’s kind of hard to be involved in organizations if I have to drive down there all the time just to attend a meeting,” Huang said. “That’s the biggest obstacle of Georgia State so far I think. It’s not the courses, it’s not the open campus — it’s the commute.”

Due to the commute and planning logistics, Huang feels that he is missing out on “the true college experience.” 

Despite these grievances, Huang adds that “I’m saving a lot of money, so I’m not complaining.”

Students Skylar Little and Charles Beaumont cite finances as the number one reason they chose to live off-campus. 

Beaumont lives in Decatur, and twice a week, he drives to the stadium and catches a bus to campus. He says the whole process takes about an hour, but that he doesn’t mind the commute. 

The most difficult step, Beaumont said, is catching the bus back to the stadium.

“There’ll be a large crowd of people, and there’s no line or anything,” Beaumont said. “Everyone’s praying the bus door stops next to them, because it’s a long crowd, so, like, wherever the bus door is, people will just start swarming towards it.”

Beaumont believes there are pros and cons to life off-campus. He can live affordably just outside of the city, where he has “a little more privacy” and is free to do what he wants. On the other hand, Beaumont finds life off-campus to be somewhat isolating from his peers.

“When you live in a dorm, there’s all those kids around your age, and it’s easy to go socialize with your neighbors,” he said. “When you commute, you go to campus, take your classes and leave. So, the biggest disadvantage would be meeting other college students and just finding time to do that.” 

Despite this, Beaumont has found that life off campus has allowed him to maintain old friendships.  

“There’s a lot of friends I have who aren’t going to Georgia State that still live here in Decatur,” he said. “If I was living on campus, I’d miss out on a lot of that, and just being close to my friends in Decatur is nice. So it’s kind of a trade-off … If I lived on campus, I wouldn’t be able to stay connected with a lot of people who don’t go to school there. It’s a full immersion thing.”

Little agrees that living off-campus has allowed her to maintain long-time relationships.

Little lived in Piedmont Central as a freshman and now rides a bus from Lawrenceville to campus. Each week, Little commutes a total of 12 hours. Since Little spends her days on campus going to classes and work, she finds the bus ride home as a signifier that her workday is over.

Little said her social life has improved since moving off campus. For her, it’s all a matter of planning around the bus schedule back to Lawrenceville.

Life on an open campus is what Browne calls a “mixed bag.” Mostly, Browne said she appreciates having a campus immersed within the metropolitan landscape.

“I like that we still have part of the Atlanta culture just embedded throughout our entire campus,” she said. “You could just go down the street and get some really good Thai food or really good restaurants in our area without being the on-campus generic, like, Chick-fil-A string.”

Campus safety is Browne’s biggest concern. During the day, Browne feels relatively safe but calls nighttime a “different story.” When leaving class or the library late at night, Browne usually calls a Georgia State safety escort, which she has found to be a good option for students.

Safety is on other students’ minds as well. Instead of battling for a spot on the bus back to the stadium, Beaumont usually finds himself making the 15-minute walk alone. Generally, though, Beaumont doesn’t feel unsafe because he’s “a pretty tall guy.”

“There have been times that I’m a little sketched out at night,” Beaumont said. “I have never really felt threatened for my safety, but I have a few friends who have been catcalled and followed for a couple of blocks … So, I’ve heard stories of people being scared, but personally, I haven’t had a problem.”

Beaumont said he sometimes feels apprehensive walking along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, adding that this is mainly due to those just passing through the city. 

“There’s a large homeless population, and most of them are super cool,” Beaumont said. “They’re there all the time, they’re respectful and they’re part of the community. There are some people who are just in from out of town, and they don’t really feel like they owe anybody anything… and you can walk around on campus and for every five college students, there’s going to be five people who aren’t in school and aren’t in that mindset.” 

Like Beaumont, Huang generally feels safe around downtown, but he has made a habit of accompanying his female friends around campus.

“That’s why I walk with my other friends for the most part because I’m not scared of getting robbed, really,” Huang said. “I dress like a bum, but some of our friends who are female, they do tend to get anxious, so I usually walk with them, so they feel a bit safer.”

In a survey conducted by The Signal, students ranked personal safety as an average of three on a five point scale, meaning students feel generally safe.

These Panthers do share one thing: a love for the city. 

In the same student survey, Panthers ranked the open campus as 3.8 and overall satisfaction with the university was ranked at 4 out of 5.

Browne describes the culture as her favorite part of Atlanta.

“I love downtown Atlanta,” Browne said. “I love the environment, and I love the culture, especially with Black History Month coming up. It’s just that the culture is embedded all throughout Atlanta. Like, Martin Luther King Jr’s church is down the street, and we have so many opportunities to really reflect on Atlanta’s past on our daily walk to class.”

Little describes Atlanta as a big city saturated with Southern charm. 

“I love the city, and I think we have a great culture,” Little said. “I really love the music and art down here. I try to be a patron when I can of local music, acts and local art. The community is super great.” 

Beaumont, someone who’s always been “a city kid,” feels that attending university in a major city allows for more diverse peers and increased networking opportunities.

“I believe that you are the company you keep, so being downtown lets you meet people you might not meet normally, who are really career-minded, self-sustaining and independent,” Beaumont said. “It’s nice having the school intermingled with the city, and I think it opens up a lot of opportunities. I have an internship, for example, in the city, and chances are, I wouldn’t have that opportunity if I lived in a college town.” 

In The Signal’s student survey, professional networking and connections are one of student’s favorite aspects of the university.

Georgia State isn’t only creating opportunities for students, it’s also making big waves in the state of Georgia.

According to Georgia State, the university had a $2.5 billion economic impact on the state and has created 21,915 jobs. 

Amid this big city atmosphere, Browne has a few words of advice for fellow transfers and introverts. 

“In terms of connecting and meeting people at Georgia State, it really is what you make it,” she said. “You really have to go out of your way to push yourself to meet people. It’s not going to come easily unless you try to put your best foot forward.”