Home close to home: CU resident students reflect on term ’townies‘


Photo courtesy of Emma Fristoe

Emma Fristoe, freshman in FFA, and other students talk about their experience of being “townies,” those growing up in the C-U community from grade school to now.

By Azucena Gama, Staff Writer

For new students, one of the most exciting parts of coming to college is getting to explore and integrate themselves into a new location. For the University, this new place is Champaign-Urbana.

However, for some students from Urbana High School, Champaign Central High School and Centennial High School, Champaign-Urbana is also the place they call home.

These students, who call themselves ‘townies,’ grew up in town and have known Champaign-Urbana their whole life.

“I would use it (townie) to describe myself, it’s not weird,” said Emma Fristoe, freshman in FFA. Fristoe attended Urbana High School.

Growing up in a college town is a unique experience. In the summer, the town is dead. But come late August, the population increases by almost 55,000 incoming students coming from around the world to study.

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“It makes the town pretty diverse, you are exposed to a lot of different things, there is a difference in the town over summer and over breaks because you can see how it is without students,” Fristoe said.

There are a few benefits from already being in town for college. For instance, students can go home and see their families often. According to Conor Blount, freshman in Engineering and Champaign resident, the proximity to home is convenient.

“My brother is a junior in high school and my sister is in eighth grade so it’s nice to go see them and not totally leave them,” Blount said. “My parents also enjoy me being so close because if they ever absolutely need me for something or if I absolutely need them for something, I know they can help me.”

Some townies chose to attend the University considering the familiarity and financial benefit. For those who graduated high school during COVID-19 such as John Forsyth, sophomore in Engineering and Urbana High School alum, choosing the University was ideal because they were familiar with the area.

“My parents both work at the University so, financially, that influenced my choice,” he said. “The department I was interested in is very strong here, I got to see Campustown all the time, and because I was choosing during COVID-19 it was important I knew what the campus looked like for the college I chose,” Forsyth said.

Forsyth also said that COVID-19 prevented him from visiting other schools, leading him to choose the University.

“It was a big problem I couldn’t see other campuses but I could see here and I knew I liked it here,” Forsyth said.

Fristoe said that the biggest difference between her life now compared to her old life that was a few blocks from the University is the independence she gained.

“Independence makes you have a new perspective, it doesn’t feel like the same place,” she said.

Being so close to campus, many local high school seniors chose the University. According to Blount, an estimated 80-100 students from the Champaign Central High School class of 2021 attend the University.

However, having Illini pride isn’t a big deal for high school students.

“A lot of people weren’t that enthused with the (University) because they wanted to leave town for college, which makes sense,” Forsyth said.

But regardless of where they grew up, there is a reason that every student ends up attending the University — the townies come with the added benefit of not needing a map.

“I grew up here. I like it a lot. I like college here. I’m happy I stayed in this town. I want to get out of here afterward, but I enjoy being a townie,” Forsyth said.


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