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A Whole New World: From California to Austin and Everywhere In Between

In ORANGE’s second installment of “A Whole New World,” junior Madison Hamilton describes her transition from state to state over the years and why Austin is her favorite destination yet.

By Madison Hamilton

I was born in Santa Barbara, California. I moved to Nashville just before my first birthday, then moved back to Santa Barbara at age six and stayed through high school. At 17, I moved to New York City, and at 19 I trekked across the country to Los Angeles. Just before my 21st birthday, I moved to Austin, and here I am in Austin at age 22.

 As you can see, I move around a lot. The whole idea of making new friends and building a life in an unfamiliar city excites me. But there’s something different about my move to Austin. Something more permanent.

I knew I wasn’t going to stay in LA for long. It was more of a transition period. For lack of a better phrase, it was a time to get my shit together. I enrolled at Santa Monica College while I applied to transfer to my next, and final, college. I was hoping to get back to New York City for my last two years of school.

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When I lived in New York the year before, I was flip flopping between criminal justice, acting, and more prominently, partying. And I couldn’t afford to live in Manhattan when I had no clear intention other than staying out ’til 5 a.m. every weekend. But now I was on track and hoping to get back to the big apple. I applied to pretty much every college in New York City. I also applied to some California universities and a few in Nashville schools since it still holds a soft spot after those childhood days.

During the application process, a friend invited me out to Austin for a UT football game. I had never been and thought it would be a nice break from all of the college essays I was writing.  So I flew out Friday after class and by the time I got back on Sunday I was filling out a UT application. But here’s the thing — the application was due a few weeks earlier and I had to fill out an appeal form as to why mine was late. So I did. I told them the story of my perfect Texas weekend and how I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere but Austin. It was a long shot, but weeks later I found out I got in. I’ll never forget opening the letter, calling my mom, and tearing up in happiness.

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And now I’m here, and have no intention of moving anywhere else anytime soon. Other than the summers, Austin was by far the easiest city to adjust to. It has the hiking and water activities like California. It has countless things to do like New York City. And it has the southern charm like Nashville. It’s also not a bad place to be if you enjoy great live music. But the main thing that made it so easy to move to Austin is the people.

I moved here in August, and, like I said, I wasn’t accustomed to the heat. It was 110 degrees and the elevator at my apartment was broken, which meant my dad and I were carrying all my furniture up four flights of stairs. I remember actually being confused as other students, both male and female, offered to help us. And that night as my dad and I drank cold beers on my balcony, the neighbors saw us and invited us over.

I thought I might just be living in a really friendly apartment building, but as I walked into school the week after I was literally startled as a guy ran in front of me to open the door. More than a year later and I’m still surprised by the small acts of kindness I see everyday. I wish I could say something that would make this seem less like a love affair with Austin, but really the only thing hard about living here is your water bill during summer because you’re taking six showers a day to cool off. And if you think about it, having one or two months a year over 100 degrees isn’t all that bad.

So here’s to you Austin, the place I call home.

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