Time on the clock

Emory students hail from all over the world, bringing with them their own diverse cultures and identities. The Class of 2020 alone includes students from forty-eight states and seventy-eight countries, according to the Emory News Center. Some students are thousands of miles away from home, and some are experiencing a culture completely alien to their own.

I didn't travel thousands of miles for move-in day, and I've never had to hop on a thirteen-hour plane ride to return home. I came to Emory from a small town in East Tennessee, about 270 miles from Atlanta. While I expected a rough transition from living in a town with a population of a little under four thousand to a bustling metropolitan area like Atlanta, the "Emory bubble" made the adjustment as easy as could be. Emory's campus and the surrounding residential neighborhood acted as a barrier to most of the city during my freshman and sophomore years, and I found that the "hey y'all" and sweet tea culture held true across the Tennessee-Georgia border.

Unlike many of my peers, I found very few cultural differences between my hometown and my new home, except for one: how little everyone cared about football.

To my first-year self, this was more than just a shock; it was a nightmare. Of course, I knew coming into Emory that there was no football team. Every Emory student has had a good laugh over the "Emory Football: Still Undefeated" shirts displayed proudly in the bookstore. Still, I arrived on campus with the assumption that, like me, everyone else viewed the lack of a football team as a flaw they were willing to overlook for the sake of Emory's multitude of positive attributes.

This naive assumption was quickly put to rest. Rather than moping over having no team to cheer on, people spent their Saturdays partying, volunteering in Atlanta, catching up on sleep, or running a 5K. It was strange to me at first, as someone who grew up in a region where football is followed and practiced in a borderline religious fashion; a majority of my town's population showed up for Friday night high school games, and those lucky enough to afford season tickets drove the hour and a half down I-75 to Neyland Stadium to watch the Tennessee Volunteers play on Saturdays. It wasn't until I came to Emory that I even realized how much of my time, money, and energy was spent on tailgating, traveling to games, and cheering on my favorite teams. Embracing Emory's undefeated spirit, I made a choice to stop wishing for a football team and to start focusing on exploring all that Emory and Atlanta had to offer.

As a third-year student now, I realize that I'll never have the time, money, or energy to explore ALL that Emory and Atlanta have to offer—but I'm still trying. From Greek life to the Emory Globe, I've found my home on campus through organizations that I'm passionate about. From the Fox Theatre to Music Midtown, I've hit up mainstay Atlanta staples, and from Thaicoon to La Parilla, I've even found my own niche favorites.

If Emory had a football team, I think it's safe to say I would have skipped out on all of the amazing experiences that have made my time at Emory so memorable. But that isn't to say that I've given up my love for football. I still stream the big SEC games on my laptop, and I even took four of my best friends from college on a visit to my hometown that culminated in a game at Neyland Stadium.

This year, the balance I've struck between my interests has come full circle, with football's biggest stars headed to Emory's backyard in February for Superbowl LIII. And though Emory doesn't have a football team, the university's deep involvement through research, alumni involvement, and health care with Superbowl LIII shows that Emory recognizes and appreciates football's value in the American cultural sphere, despite what I may have thought when I arrived on campus as a green freshman.

I no longer find myself wishing for a football team at Emory. I've found that the absence of football at Emory isn't a necessary evil, but rather an added bonus that has allowed me to explore other interests that I never would have considered had I spent my Saturdays painted up in blue and gold and cheering on the sidelines. Still, I am proud of my university's involvement with the largest football event of the year—and I'm looking forward to what's to come.

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