Of the many different factors that go into choosing a college, location is an important one. California residents are lucky in that we have a great public university system, with options all over the state. However, the downside to this is that we are often faced with the choice of whether or not to make the transition from NorCal to SoCal, or vice versa.
I was faced with this problem a year ago. When I first visited the University of California Santa Barbara, I loved it, and was almost positive that it was the perfect fit for me. One of my only worries, though, came from things that people said back home- that it would be “too SoCal,” accompanied by all the usual stereotypes about the southern part of the state.
Aside from the occasional trip to visit relatives in Los Angeles, up until college I’ve lived my entire life in the East Bay. Fortunately, a lot of my friends at UCSB are from the Bay Area as well, and understand when I make a NorCal reference that other people don’t get.
Having now lived in both halves of California, I can definitely say that there is a difference between the north and the south. To be fair to SoCal, I’ve found that the cliché that people there are shallow and vapid is mostly untrue. Yes, there are some people I’ve met who fit the stereotype, but hardly enough to generalize. Also, there are a lot of things I really love about living here that I just can’t get back in the Bay, like the beautiful, sunny beaches, relaxed atmosphere and the fact that I can comfortably wear a bathing suit and go to the beach in the middle of winter. That being said, the reverse is true, and there are great aspects of living in NorCal that the south doesn’t have.
To start with, there are more major cities in NorCal, and as a result more things to do. I’ve had this debate with a lot of my SoCal friends before, and each time their response is “well, we have L.A.” L.A. is an amazing and interesting city, but there’s undeniably more variety up north, even just within the Bay Area. Growing up, the mid-sized but famously “out-there” city of Berkeley was only a fifteen-minute drive from my house, and San Francisco wasn’t much further away. Other large cities like San Jose and Santa Cruz, although not quite as close, were still a good distance for a day trip. Each of these places has so much to offer, and by growing up nearby, I’ve been able to experience all of them on a pretty regular basis.
Another thing that I’ve always loved about the Bay Area is the diversity in everything. There is no one stereotype of people back home, which is probably because people are very accepting of others there.
The final comment I have on the whole north vs. south debate is about the ongoing joke that you can’t say the word “hella” in SoCal. Compared to some of my friends back home, I don’t even say the word that much, however, up until college it was something I was just used to saying. For those of you who don’t know from personal experience, it’s true: saying “hella” in SoCal is pretty much asking for a death stare. Personally, this is something I’ll never understand. “Hella” isn’t offensive or rude- if anything, it’s another way of saying “really,” or “a lot.” I’m not expecting SoCal kids to embrace the word and start using it themselves, just hoping that they’ll stop glaring at us when we say it.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that I hate SoCal. I was the one who chose to go to school here, and so far it’s been one of the best decisions of my life. Each part of the state has a lot to offer, and they’re both great places to live. However, NorCal is home to me, and for now will always come out on top.