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Should I go to Florida State? What's Tallahassee like? Talk to me! :D
I am a twenty-year-old single white female, born and bred in NH, who has just received a generous suggestion to study for my PhD at Florida State University. Of course the university is advertising itself wonderfully, but they're selling something, and I want to hear from you! And living in NH, I'm not going to be able to scope out the area that well. FSU can pay for me to visit once for an interview and that's it. What should a potential graduate student know about FSU and Tallahassee? What do you guys think about them?
In New Hampshire I'm used to "live free or die," easy commutes, low populations and lots of shopping, high tolerance for lifestyle choices, no sales or income taxes, friendly natives, gas at $1.80, autumn foliage, small towns, the New Hampshire Primary, and everybody constantly reassuring each other that this is the best place in the world to live. On the downside: mostly white population, belligerence towards Massachusetts, small-town mentalities, "live free or die," rest of nation completely oblivious to our Obvious Importance.
I don't know if I'll be able to take the taxes. Sales tax on everything you buy?! Income tax?! How does this affect you?
FSU will pay me about $16-18K if I get accepted there. How far will that go? On Craigslist it looks like apartments are cheap, but I don't know what good neighborhoods are, or how much necessities like food, gas, utilities cost.
I'm not particularly concerned about fitting in; I don't believe that people should strive to fit in, because diversity is how we survive. But I would like to find a place in the community where I live. And I'm a latte-sipping Yankee liberal who cares really hard about evolution. I'd hate to feel alone. But I'd also hate to feel like I was taking advantage of what the state has to offer without really caring about the place or the people. Like, if I just hung out with other transplants, I wouldn't be gaining all that much from my graduate experience.
What is there to do outside FSU? Any ideas what graduate students do there?
What do you like about Tallahassee? Why do you live there?
Last edited by AudreyEvolves; 12-02-2008 at 04:08 PM..
Reason: Edited to add more questions!
The times I've been in Tallahassee, it's struck me as pretty interchangable with several other middle-sized metro areas that host both a state capitol and a large university. I'll joke that Tallahassee is Madison or Landisng with palm trees.
Food costs are pretty much at the national average and there's no sales tax on food or select pharmaceuticals. No state income tax either.
Very hot and humid summers. But schools and businesses will keep the air conditioning set to an almost cryogenic level so it's easy to avoid the worst of it.
As for fitting in, 80% of the population of the state was born Somewhere Else, and the native Floridian is regarded as something of an exotic oddity. Which is something I like about the state- you end up hanging around with people that bring a lot of different experiences and backgrounds to the table.
One caution I'd offer is that the state higher education budget is not in a happy place right now, and I'd ask questions about the outlook and financial stability of the program.
Hate to burst your bubble, but Florida sucks. I graduated from FSU back in '90 and, while I had fun while there, I wouldn't come to this state, regardless what offer was made to me. I have less than two years to go with this job, and once that happens, the family and I are out of here!!!! Matter of fact, I've been doing a lot of research on areas of New Hampshire to move to. Florida is nothing more than one huge overcrowded mall, hot, humid, congested, crime ridden, and best of all, soon to be ALL Spanish!!!! Yeah!!! School enrollment is down considerably because families are moving out of the state in droves and budget shortfalls are killing the school system. What's moving out of Florida is being replaced with garbage. Don't knock what you have up there in New Hampshire. Your state is like a dream compared to what is going on down here. I'd think twice before making the move. You're going to get a lot of differing opinions on this, so make as an informed decision as possible. The offer you've received sounds like a good one, but beware!!!! Good luck.
First off, 20 years old and already getting a PhD, that's amazing!
My son is 3rd year student at FSU. He loves it. So much that I think he is on the 5 year plan. It is a party college town. Football season is huge. It can be quite congested with traffic during the year and slows up during the summer.
I would stick to the NE side of Tally if you choose to live there. Charming older homes near dowtown, with an older more professional crowd. The NW section is all college kids, and lower income families. Rents are cheaper in that area.
You will get a taste of winter but without snow. It can get cold in Tally, but equally as hot in the summer.
I have always dealt with sales tax, living in Fl, but there is no income tax.
Tally has it's issues, but if they offering you $$ in the field you want, in this day and age, I would take it and run!
I lived in Tallahassee from 1998 to 2004, staying for my undergraduate and graduate degrees at Florida State. I went there for similar reasons to you, AudreyEvolves - scholarships. I had a free ride as an undergrad and a University Fellowship for the last few years of grad school (Ph.D. track, though I left as ABD to get a job), which sounds similar to what you're describing.
I had moved to Tallahassee from North Carolina, though prior to that I had lived for many years in Ohio and Pennsylvania (only the last two years before college were spent in NC). I liked Tallahassee for what it was. It's a college town and a government town. Tallahassee itself is pretty liberal (Leon County consistently went Democratic as I recall), but it's surrounded by what locals call "LA" - that is, "Lower Alabama." This part of Florida is still very southern (unlike areas such as Orlando, which are more like the north in terms of culture), but Tallahassee is not quite the same as the surrounding area because of the universities and the government.
FSU has a reputation as a party school, and it's well-deserved. Football is a big deal. I like football, so that worked for me, but I wasn't a partier - and I was fine there. I made lots of great friends who were also excellent students, and I enjoyed my time there. By the time I was done, I was ready for a change, but I was also nearly 25 at that point and ready to move beyond college life.
I think Tallahassee was a good place to spend my college years. The city seemed fairly diverse - significant numbers of white, black and Hispanic residents, and of course people from around the world studied at the univerisity. I had a lot of fun and fond memories, and I've been back to visit twice in the past four years (most recently in March 2008). I left for San Francisco and am now moving to Denver, but it was a good place for that time in my life. I met my wife there, too, and that was a nice find for me!
What are your other options? I think the environment culture is gonna be a huge change from where you've been, but that's not necessarily a bad thing...just depends on what alternatives you have.
I like college towns and I like big cities, but Tally is neither. It's stuck somewhere in between, so not very attractive to me. I did my undergrad at UF (Gainesville, FL) and applied to grad school at FSU but did not seriously consider it for various reasons, the main one being the city.
Still, I've got to think that your best course of action is primarily dependent on your studies: how good the program is at FSU and what your other options are. To sum up simply, I don't think Tallahassee sucks enough that it should deter you from pursuing studies in a good grad dept, but it's not nice enough that you should go if the program isn't worth it.
And I'm a latte-sipping Yankee liberal who cares really hard about evolution. Like, if I just hung out with other transplants, I wouldn't be gaining all that much from my graduate experience.
My son is similar to you, he grew up in secular Denver, Colorado and experienced the culture shock of spending his last two years of high school in rural northern Florida, where they pray to Jesus in a public high school.
He has made some very good friends in Tally. He's a sophomore majoring in International Affairs. He's very happy at FSU.
I think it's a beautiful campus, I love the oak trees and spanish moss.
The election made Tally an exciting place to be; there was a lot going on.
I think Tally is enough of a college town to provide for enjoyable cultural stuff; everyone from this or that foreign dignitary to Stephen Colbert to Kimya Dawson to Michelle Obama has dropped by the Seminole Nation.
While I think Tourreteboy's post is a bit heavy on the hyperbole, you've received good advice from everyone else. Beachmouse's last sentence is especially important, as is Projectmaximus' last paragraph.
Thank you so much for all of your responses! They've been very helpful. You are all so gracious and generous to put so much time and thought into these long, detailed answers. I am very grateful!
I am especially glad because you are all being completely honest and I can trust that. Thank you for your friendliness and help! I'd like to thank you all -
beachmouse - SO important about everybody's background, I really want my grad experience to be different than what I'm used to. Also, good point about funding, that's really sensible advice.
TD* - I'm very grateful to have a student's insight!
touretteboy65 - Thank you so much for your points, I find it's often hard to get a really honest critical opinion. I definitely understand what you're saying about Florida - that's what I'm afraid of. However, I'm definitely not mature enough to raise a family or buy property while in Florida. So as a student I might have a good experience.
Tally has it's issues, but if they offering you $$ in the field you want, in this day and age, I would take it and run!
LOL EXACTLY!! That's what I'm thinking! Thank you for all of the information as well! And I didn't know about there not being an income tax, so thank you so much for saving me from looking ignorant! Thanks for the info about the neighborhoods, too. I really wouldn't know these things going in! And while I'm very glad that you think I'm impressive, really very many people enter graduate school at 21, and I'm only planning ahead
fsufezzik - first, best Internet handle ever, and second, how amazing that I find somebody in the same situation! What luck! I know, their offers of scholarships are really good, but I hesitate to get overexcited about a place I'd never considered living. All of your information is so helpful and relates so well to my situation that I can barely believe it And lucky you, finding a wife too!
projectmaximus - The FSU program seems really good, and that's the thing! And I like what you said about Tallahassee not sucking enough to deter somebody from a really good program. That's essentially what I wanted to know!
BlueWillowPlate - Teehee! Thank you! I think a little culture shock would be good for me, coming from all-white, all-native NH, but I would also like to enjoy it. Thank you so much for all of your mature and sensible advice. I am particularly glad for the description of campus - I pictured FSU and Tallahassee as being grim and ugly, and the thought was depressing. Also: Kimya Dawson? You may have sold me!
I graduated from FSU with a master's degree last December and have lived in Tallahassee since 2002. I am originally from Arizona. I will divide my feedback into academic and social categories.
Academics: In my experience, FSU is very strong in the life sciences, social sciences, and public health. I took biochemistry at FSU, and the course was as difficult as a real medical school. The reason I know that is because I took summer anatomy lab with medical students in Colorado. So FSU is strong in science. Despite the extreme recession, students from the healthcare majors have had success in getting jobs. The professors are generally of very high quality, and most students I meet do not complain about the quality of education. The classes are usually hard but within reach of good grades as long as you study hard. I worked while earning my 2nd master's degree. It was very intense and time consuming. But the credential was worth it, and my job opportunities are extremely good. I still have my engineering job at the state, but I could move if I wanted.
Social Life: It depends on your background and age. The social life at FSU seems most appealing to undergraduates and very young graduate students. The main social events seem to be parties like tailgaters, small clubs, and other "college party" type of social gatherings with alcohol. I know pool parties are very popular. So FSU's reputation as a "party school" is very realistic on the weekends. The football games generate a high level of school spirit and social atmosphere. But in my opinion, this type of lifestyle is most appealing for those ages 18-23 - the young college crowd. If that is your preference of a "social life", then FSU will be a good fit.
There are other social factors that must be considered. FSU is mostly a small Protestant town in the more rural part of the state. I was raised as a devout Catholic and am Native American from Arizona. The campus has good diversity in terms of ethnic groups. But in terms of religion, there is not a lot of diversity. Most of the people at FSU or North FL are Protestant. So as a devout Catholic I am really out-of-place. I found a small Catholic student group on campus and played basketball with them. But the religious diversity is not there. Tallahassee was a Confederate town in the mid-1800s. So modern Tallahassee is a typical Protestant town of the deep south - the "Bible Belt." In that regard, it may be a culture shock in some ways.
So dating and social life are extremely limited for older graduate students in their late 20s or more. The social atmosphere is best for 18-23. As an older graduate student, I outgrew the "party" lifestyle back in the 1990s, so I never socialized in that way. Since I train for high-altitude running year-round, I was able to play a lot of campus intramural basketball. That was my only social life. So FSU does have a very good campus intramural sports program that can give you the best of times. But other than that, I had nothing as an older graduate student for socialization. I have never been able to meet a Catholic female closer to my age (mid 20s to 30s). The only females who liked me at FSU were undergraduates who partied too much. And they were usually Protestant. Dating was a mismatch. I had no desire to regress to partying with alcohol just for the sake of dating.
In terms of outdoor sports, I find Tallahassee limited. I was a mountain runner in Colorado and went up many peaks in the Colorado Rockies. Florida is flat and at sea level. It is also very humid. The outdoor sports are rather limited by Colorado standards, and the level of running and cardio fitness do not match the running communities of Colorado (e.g. Boulder). It's just normally too hot for outdoor running.
So as a younger graduate student, I think you would be happy at FSU if you are Protestant and like to party with undergraduates. But if you are a more serious graduate student who has outgrown the party phase and is not Protestant, then you will probably not be happy at FSU. I fell into the latter category for the most part (except for campus basketball). Most older graduate students I meet can't wait to leave. I am trying to move to Miami, FL because it has millions of people with more things to do and more religious diversity.
On the positive side of FSU, I like the fact that the school respects the symbol of the Seminoles. As a Native American, I grew up in a town with extreme racial tension between whites and Native Americans in Arizona. I never really exprienced that at FSU, so acceptance of Native Americans is good. There were a few negative incidents over the years, but not very frequent. So racism against Native Americans is not bad like in South Dakota or rural Arizona.
If I had to guess, you may want to look at options such as the University of South Florida, University of Central Florida, and Miami for larger metro areas that have more things to do other than the college party atmosphere. The people who seem to be the happiest at FSU are traditional southerners who are Protestant and enjoy NASCAR, tailgaters, football, pool parties, Gulf beaches, and are comfortable in a southern geographic climate. I don't fall into that category so I am trying to move. But I revere the quality of my FSU education.
Last edited by grad_student200; 06-05-2009 at 01:43 AM..
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