The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Friday, Dec. 8, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Making Chapel Hill my home, and yours


Photo courtesy of Walker Livingston. Deer walk through a clearing in Merritt's Pasture.

I’ve lived in Chapel Hill for what feels like forever, so while moving into my South Campus dorm last fall wasn’t a change of place, it was definitely a big change of pace.

Living in a 10-story building in the town I've lived in for so long with strangers and friends was super weird, for lack of better wording. I felt like I was in a strange summer camp far away from home, when I was a 10 minute drive away.

I was used to going to the strip malls of Eastgate Crossing and Timberlyne Shopping Center and driving aimlessly on backroads just outside of town. I avoided Franklin Street and on-campus areas, because I wasn’t a student and, honestly, it felt kind of cringe-worthy. Chapel Hill outside of UNC felt quirky and boring, with its esoteric yard signs, weird roundabouts and concerning lack of drive-thrus, but it was my town. 

I found the idea that specific spaces were built up around the University silly — it made me think that the rest of Chapel Hill was an afterthought to the institution that is UNC. 

While all of my friends were experiencing the newness of being a college first-year in a completely new place last semester, I felt at odds with being new in the town that I’ve lived for 10 years because my personal Chapel Hill isn’t as interesting or sensational as the school spirit-filled, prestigious UNC.

About a month into the fall semester of my first year, I decided I was going to find something new about Chapel Hill. I was on a quest to find something exciting, something truly new. 

Behind the ever-present buzz of college — schoolwork, social life, my newfound knack for journalism and the constant identity crisis that was my first year of college — I found little homes for myself across Chapel Hill.

I walked around town aimlessly with my wired headphones in feeling like a character in a coming-of-age movie. I spent hours and hours at Open Eye Cafe writing and, by proxy, finding out what I what I (kind of) want to do with my life.  I went to concerts at the Cat’s Cradle on a whim and discovered artists that have become personal favorites. I’ve sat and talked with friends at Weaver Street Market in Carrboro and not realized the sun was setting until it had turned pitch-black outside. 

While these places weren’t completely new to me, they felt new because I was using my newfound collegiate independence to actively seek out spaces that I could make my own in this town. 

Few UNC students are from Chapel Hill (though it feels like I see someone I went to high school with every time I turn a corner), but I think everyone could stand to do a little exploring and self-searching. This town by no means is riveting — but there is a lot to see.

I encourage you to spend time alone and get to know Chapel Hill’s quirks — coffee shops, beautiful neighborhoods, green spaces and all. College is overwhelming, and taking a breather to get to know the place around you on your own is empowering.

I’ve grown pretty tired of Chapel Hill at times. After all, I have gone to elementary, middle, high school and college here. Despite this, I think I’ve gotten around to making Chapel Hill my home. And I hope you can make it yours too. 


To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

Walker Livingston

Walker Livingston is a 2023-24 assistant city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer city & state editor. Walker is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and American studies, with a minor in data science.