(We’re here to help make your new home as sweet as it gets)
Andrew Bowsher|August 21, 2019
Welcome to college in Alabama. No matter if you’re brand new around here or if you’re a long-time local with the accent to prove it, you’re in for a real treat.
To help get you all settled in and ready for the road ahead, we’ve put together this guide to prep you for a life around the state that puts the extra in extracurricular. So, let's get into it.
Chapter One: Alabama Conversation Starters
Now, easily the most important thing to do once you get to Alabama is make some new friends. However, in order to make friends with a real-life Alabaman, you gotta know a thing or two about 'em first. You can't just spout off a bunch of facts from the state's Wikipedia page on populations and state birds and all. You gotta go for a way, way deeper dive.
When trying to assimilate to local culture, try out a few of these conversation starters:
In Hawaiian culture, “aloha” means both “hello” and “goodbye.” And in Alabaman culture, “Roll Tide” means just about everything. You can use it to show your love of the state’s biggest university, start a conversation, end a sentence, or get a room to start hollerin’ all at once. So if you’re ever at a loss for words, just shout out a good loud “Roll Tide” and all is well.
A child of Alabama doesn’t become a true Alabaman until he or she has had their first barbecue. Whether you’re talking about the classic places like Archibald’s or Dreamland, or some of the newer hot spots like Saw’s, this is where Alabama life begins.
If you’re into music or at least want to meet friends who are, just mention Muscle Shoals to a local where some of the all-time greatest albums in music history were recorded. Now you’ve got a new friend for life.
Chapter Two: Where to Crash
If you’re not already set on living in the dorms, you’re going to need to know where to lay your ever-growing head at night. So let’s talk about the hot rentals around the area.
According to rentcafe.com, the home of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, has one-bedroom apartments going for around $1,112/month. Auburn is a bit pricier, with one-bedrooms going for around $1,222/month. But of course that’s right inside the city, and you can always find lower prices out in a number of nearby suburbs for a few hundred less.
PRO TIP: If you put two to three bunk beds in every room and grab a bunch more roommates, your rent will be dirt cheap!
Chapter Three: What's with These Locals?
To live among Alabamans, it’s best if you understand them. So the first thing to know is that around here, folks speak their minds a little differently, with a big spoonful of passive-aggressive. For example, if someone says “bless your heart,” it may sound all sweet and everything, but it’s usually got a bit of a sarcastic edge to it.
Don't let that dissuade you, though. Heck, with those accents, you can say anything you want to us, we won’t mind. But folks down here know a thing or two about manners. Locals stress that the main vibe of their state is one of true southern hospitality. They use "sirs" and "ma'ams" like they’re going out of style and will always give you a warm welcome and lots of southern-fried food.
Chapter Four: Where to “Study” around Town
Now that you’re getting all nice and settled into Alabama life, it’s time to focus on those studies. But everyone knows how distracting roommates, video games, and fridges can be when you’re trying to focus. So why not try some of the great sights and local hot spots for a little study sesh? Here are a few places we recommend:
Cheaha Mountain: The highest point in all of Alabama, there are plenty of trees to lean up against and a view to help give you a nice perspective to get those creative juices flowing.
The Gigantic Chair of Anniston: Somewhere between Atlanta, GA, and Birmingham, AL, is one of the largest chairs in the world. It’s 31 feet tall and gives your entire study group a comfy spot to get together and cram for that midterm.
Down by the gulf: Depending on where you’re stationed, this could be either a short drive or a longer one, but the views can’t be beat on the beach. And sure you could get a little sand in your laptop, but the shrimp down here are the kind of sweet you don’t ever forget.
Talladega Superspeedway: Just hear us out on this one. The cars are going in a circle so fast and at such a beautiful rhythm, it’s almost like having a white noise machine on. This might just be the best place to study ever.
Any of the many historical sites: Now especially if you’re a history major, you can study hundreds of years of American history in real time. You can’t beat a hands-on experience like that.
Chapter Five: No FOMO Weekend Activities around Alabama
One of the best things about college are the weekends. And Alabama has plenty of incredible things to do, see, smell, and eat to rest your mind from all that studying you’ve been doing. Here are a few of our favorite local things to do:
Alligator Alley: Located in Summerdale, this swamp sanctuary has an elevated boardwalk featuring a too-close-for-comfort view of hundreds of alligators and other assorted wildlife. If staring right into the face of one of mankind's biggest natural predators doesn’t get your mind off that Bio midterm, nothing will.
Swim: In case you didn’t know, it’s hot down here. And humid, too. So the best way to cool your jets is in a pool, a lake, a river, a kiddie pool in your living room. Whatever it takes, really. But the only way to beat that heat is to soak it all away.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center: Right in Huntsville, this museum includes access to the historic Shuttle Park and Rocket Park with tons of unique artifacts from the country's space exploration. It's considered to be the world's largest space museum and outlines the history of the US space program.
Vulcan statue: In Birmingham, the world's tallest cast iron statue stands an impressive 56 feet tall. Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, represents the state's roots in the iron and steel industry, and he's kind of a big deal…literally.
Visit a state park: There are 21 beautiful sanctuaries dedicated to the preservation of this incredible land, all worth the visit. Whether it’s for a hike, a picnic, or just getting the perfect selfie, there’s plenty of great nature to soak in over the weekend around here.
Chapter Six: The Post-College Job Scene
Maybe you know exactly what you want to do after graduation or maybe you’re still undeclared. Either way, we’re so sure you’re going to want to stick around after the ceremony that we should probably talk about the local market and which careers are hot right now around town.
The current unemployment rate is just 3.5%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, so odds are pretty good for finding work upon your move. This number has also been on a nice, steady decline since 2010, when it was a much higher 11.9%. The federal minimum wage is the same as the national average, however, at $7.25/hour, states minimum-wage.org.
As for the big careers around here, the state has several fast-growing job fields, including computer science, physical therapy, nursing, occupational therapy, aircraft assembly, and EMT to name a few according to zippia.com. The highest-paid careers include pediatrician, nurse anesthetist, administrative law judge, dentist, and orthodontist, states bizjournals.com.
Don't forget that Alabama is home to NASA, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and the Marshall Space Flight Center. So if you've got a love for all things aeronautical, this could very well be the new home of your dreams.
Can you work with those? If not, nothing to worry about, the opportunities around here are as plentiful as the barbecue.
Chapter Seven: Pack Your Short Shorts, ‘Cuz Here You Come
All right folks, there you have it — your supremely helpful, though far-from-complete, guide to the Alabama college life. It's true that we can't pack in absolutely everything that's important to consider before making a huge cross-country move, but we hope we helped you get the ball rolling.