Leaving a Tight-Knit Community

Katherine Barbara Montana discusses how it feels to leave a small community in which she always lived, and how she feels after moving countries. 

By no means can Jacksonville be technically described as “small”. In fact, it is the largest city in the United States outside of Alaska, in terms of area size.

Yet Jacksonville is odd in that the community it encompasses makes it feel like a tiny village. We have one shopping center where everyone bumps into each other, and our local one-screen movie theater is always jam-packed with close friends and neighbors. I remember once bumping into four separate groups of friends within twenty minutes at our local Publix.

Our baseball team, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, is even named after this odd phenomenon: “jumbo” describing the size of the city, and “shrimp” in reference to its small-town feel. The feeling of community may come from the fact that almost everyone I know has their roots firmly planted here: generations of families have lived and continue to live in this lovely city.

Leaving it, however, was how I learned about the best parts of this tight-knit community.

I was beyond ecstatic at the amazing opportunity I was given when I found out that I would be moving to Scotland for university after high school. Though I would certainly miss the people who I had bonded with in Jacksonville, I was ready for the new adventure that awaited me overseas. I was worried, though, that my community would not support me in my decision to leave it. I was scared that my little town would think I was turning my back on it, which was the furthest thing from what I was attempting to do.

However, I should not have underestimated the amount of love and support that I received from what I call my “extended family” in Jacksonville. No one in the slightest resented me for leaving; in fact, they all gave overwhelming support and encouragement for my journey ahead. From surprising me at the airport to sending me messages of love almost every day, my friends and family members became my support system, encouraging me to do my best in everything that I did.

Some of the greatest moments of support came from my amazing teachers. When I expressed interest in moving to the United Kingdom (even during my freshman year), my teachers gave excited responses. From filling out recommendations to helping me research all that the U.K. had to offer in terms of what I wanted to do, they inspired me to go after my dream. Through this support, I saw the community of Jacksonville come to life in order to help me, and for that I cannot thank each and every one of my teachers enough.

After living in this beautiful country for almost a year, I can say that I love Scotland with all my heart, and I am extremely honored to call it home. I keep Jacksonville in my heart too, always remembering that my community will always keep me in theirs. I know that no matter where I go, there will always be a homecoming awaiting me in a big, yet little, city in Florida