Over the course of the first 18 years of my life, I lived in a number of different metropolitan areas around the world. When I first arrived in Rochester, I had no idea of what this city could possibly offer me.

My first impression of Rochester came from the Visitors’ Guide that accompanied my information packet with my acceptance letter. I remember thinking that a metropolitan area with a population of more than a million people must have tons to do. For the first few months, I felt very disappointed. The extent of my exploration of Rochester only encompassed Marketplace Mall and Mt. Hope Plaza. Then one day, I decided to be daring and hopped on the 72 RTS bus that took me downtown to Eastman – and as a result, started my journey through Rochester.

Over the past four school years and two summers, I’ve been to various public libraries, the Strong Museum, the Rochester Museum & Science Center, craft and quilt shows, tons of festivals, old-fashioned county fairs, various sporting events, ice skating rinks, malls, coffee shops and garden centers.

Discovering the spirit of Rochester has been a long effort of mine. I truly think that the college experience is not limited to what is available on campus. One of the best lessons I have learned over the past four years is how to make my environment livable.

UR has academically and intellectually been fulfilling, while Rochester has been creatively and experientially fulfilling.

In fact, it may come as a surprise, as it

did to me, but Rochester’s cultural offerings are top notch. The arts community is the perfect size – varied enough to be enriching and challenging, small enough to not be overwhelming.

Rochester has some of the best museums in upstate New York, world-class photography exhibits, both established and experimental art galleries, dance performances, poetry and book read-ins and theater groups offering everything from the hottest musicals to original scripts from emerging playwrights.

Although the consensus of outsiders might be that Rochester is a staid, snowy outpost somewhere near New York City, the plain truth is that Rochester isn’t boring, isn’t all that cold and is a good seven hour drive from New York City.

There are definitely drawbacks to living in the Flower City – the seemingly endless winters, the preponderance of gray skies, all those Cellino & Barnes and Irondequoit Dodge commercials. But there are infinitely more benefits – from the bountiful opportunities to try new cuisines, to the many venues for art, music, and theater, to the very lively sports scene, to the seemingly endless number of festivals.

My advice to graduating seniors, take a moment to explore the places you live in and discover their local treasures. My advice to underclassmen, take a moment to explore Rochester – you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you will find.

Ambati can be reached at mambati@campustimes.org.

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