By Philip Rubio
Many students like myself can develop a narrow understanding of Charlottesville before arriving on Grounds. I chalked it up to being the standard American “college town” and nothing more, where everything must ring blue and orange and that UVA engulfed every aspect of the town’s economy, culture, and people.
While I love the University, its many historic buildings, and study spots, the surrounding city has even further enhanced my college experience by allowing me to see new connections and differences between my school and the city where it sits.
After three years, I can guarantee that Charlottesville is so much more than just UVA. The trips I have taken off Grounds have shown me just how many wonderful places there are to see, foods to try, and moments to enjoy with my hallmates and new friends at college.
The first spot I enjoy visiting is the Downtown Mall. I often studied at the Mudhouse coffee shop just before COVID, sipping on a dark roast while cranking out Accounting problems. There are also some fantastic places to grab food or catch a movie. Just hop on the CAT bus to the Mall (free for students) and take a break from dining halls and Netflix! I’ve enjoyed a burger from Citizen and have seen both a one-man play about C.S. Lewis as well as the new film “The Mauritanian” at the famous Paramount Theater. To this day, I am still on my journey to see and explore all that the Mall has to offer.
Another spot I love to visit is the nearby Shenandoah Valley. During first year, a group of fourth-year friends drove me and some other friends to play spikeball on one of the small fields up in the mountains, an unforgettable memory during that stressful spring semester.
The other way to get to know Charlottesville as a new UVA student involves understanding the deep history of the places that have shaped the city. One experience with this happened for me over spring break 2020, when my fellowship hosted a spring break trip called “Charlottesville City Plunge.” At this point, I was lacking in my understanding of Charlottesville’s complex racial, social, and architectural history. This trip featured many important areas in the life and story of UVA’s hometown, including The Jefferson School. The trip redesigned my perspective of the neighbors and culture of my college home.
If you are thinking about coming to UVA, I hope this paints a small picture of the city that I have called home. It truly is more than a “college town,” and my interactions with it have been some of the most powerful and meaningful explorations and learning experiences of my college career. Check out the many ways to get to know Charlottesville here before arriving on Grounds, and be sure to follow the only rule I give myself when exploring this city: Go see what’s out there!