Like a lot of people reading this, I came to UR with the impression that I was somehow going to a “good school” in a “bad location.” Yes, campus was pretty, and I was vaguely aware of there being some faraway Avalon called “Eastman Campus” — where there might have been a coffee shop, somewhere to watch plays, and maybe a tall building. But I figured I would spend the vast majority of my time here cooped up in the little bend of the Genesee that we call the River Campus.
And, for about a semester, that’s exactly what I did.
I did make one or two trips to the wonderful Needledrop Records in the South Wedge, and went out to see a few movies, but these were mostly Uber-in, Uber-out affairs and were much more the exception than the rule.
For the most part, I stayed put under the watchful cupola of Rush Rhees, content in my assumption that Rochester, a city I had never even taken the time to really explore, was somehow “bad.” I was much better off, I thought, sticking to campus (as it rapidly descended into the snowy oblivion for which “winter” seemed a gentle word), and developing the pervasive senses of boredom, routine, and seasonal depression that felt like staples of the Rochester student experience.
I was entirely, utterly wrong. This campus is so insular that at times it can feel like everywhere beyond the confines of Strong Memorial Hospital, the edges of the 19th Ward, College Town, and the Mount Hope Cemetery is some kind of ephemeral, “Mad Max” no-man’s-land. The first of the common misconceptions seems to be that it’s somehow “unsafe” (read: lower-income) — that the wise student is better off walking back and forth between class, Dougie, and the dorms than actually stepping outside of their comfort zone and exploring somewhere new.
The second lie we hear is that the city itself isn’t even worth the exploration, that it’s “boring” and “bad” and “dirty.”
These, frankly, would be insulting to any city, and are especially untrue with respect to Rochester. Even if you feel scared going out late for a long walk into Center City — an absolutely lovely, convenient, and completely free hour and a half at a lazy pace round trip, and an easy walk with a friend — you can always go out earlier in the day instead and catch a gorgeous sunset over the dam.
The simple fact is that much of Rochester is dominated by incredible art galleries, bookstores, coffee shops, and museums, afternoon spots in areas that are completely safe even after dark. Rochester is a unique, artsy city steeped in history, resurrected from the corpse of a Rust Belt industry capital, home to so many spots worth your time that it’s incredible to me how few students here seem to take advantage of it.
I haven’t even touched on how phenomenal this city is over the summer, when it has unbelievably good weather. Moreover, the summer attracts non-stop music and culture festivals that are criminally under-attended by the students of the university. Why is it that, even when “the weather’s shit” isn’t a valid excuse and it’s light out until 9 p.m. and bustling with life and music until the early morning, students here over the summer barely get out? Come on, guys.
So get off campus! Go take that long, lovely walk to Center City, grab a coffee at Java’s and catch a play at Kodak Hall put on by your fellow UR students at Eastman!
Take a friend or a date or a bunch of friends (or a bunch of dates, I guess, you absolute killer) to the museums and the galleries and the concerts and the bookstores and the films — I didn’t even mention what a ridiculously amazing city this is for moviegoers! There are more than a few indie theaters like the Little and the Cinema with something interesting nearly every week. A ton of these places are free or even discounted for UR students, so price isn’t an excuse. I promise you’ll feel yourself waking up happier and finally feeling that culture you’ve been discouraged from believing this city could have.
Go. Enjoy it. It’s yours.