I’ll admit it, I used to be one of those Starbucks girls.

You know the ones: they come in groups of three or more, ordering the skinniest Frappuccino’s possible. You really can’t call them “coffee drinkers” because their typical beverages have as little coffee in them as possible. But yes, that used to be me, as shameful as it is for me to recall. However, everything changed when I experienced one of Conway’s local coffee shops.

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty introverted.

And when nursing school hit my life like a train, I became even more holed up in my dorm room, buried in my studies. I’m sure you can see how I eventually got a bit of cabin fever from being holed up in my room all the time. I needed a new study place, somewhere that wouldn’t be too distracting but would still provide me with some background noise. Luckily, I discovered Blue Sail in the summer of 2014. Blue Sail quickly became my study home; my friends knew that if I was needing to study for an upcoming test, they could find me downtown at a two-person table with a white mocha next to me. In November of 2015, Zeteo opened a few blocks away from Blue Sail, giving me yet another study home to rotate out with Blue Sail. And in the last few months, Round Mountain Coffee opened its doors, becoming one more great place for me to not only study my life away, but spend time with friends and learn about the coffee subculture.

I’ll admit it, I knew next to nothing about coffee.

I knew that espresso was… essential? But I didn’t understand different types of coffee or ways to make it, and how that was significant to the makeup of my drink. But the longer I’ve been coming to Conway’s local coffee shops, the more I’ve learned about coffee and its subculture. It’s actually kind of ironic; I came to coffee shops to learn more about the subjects I was studying in school, but I ended up also learning about the beverages I was drinking. I now know what a Chemex is, and I now sort of understand the purpose of those giant glass things that look like the coffee is taking a roller coaster down to the bottom. Most importantly, I understand the unique steps behind each cup of my coffee and what role that plays in our little coffee scene here in Conway.

I’ll admit it, I’ve become somewhat addicted to my coffee shops.

I have a go-to drink at every single location, and a few baristas know me by name. I have been back to Starbucks a handful of times in the last year, but if I had a choice, I’d rather have a cup of joe handmade by one of my neighbors. I have studied in the library on occasion, but if I’m able, I’ll more than likely be curled up in a cozy coffee shop a mile or two away from campus. Some of my best papers have been written next to a locally made white mocha, and some of my best test grades have been the result of an 8-hour study day with an Americano (or three) in my hand. And when graduation day comes, I’ll owe my coffee shops one giant thank you for getting me to the end of my academic journey. But until that day comes, you’ll find me here: sitting cross-legged at a table, buried in one of my massive nursing textbooks. And of course, a big mug of coffee right next to me.