Well, it's not your home yet, but it will be soon, despite your parents' wishes to the contrary. The University Grounds, with its ultra-loyal attachment to Jeffersonian architecture, un-air-conditioned dorm rooms and tree-filled landscapes, may eventually seem more familiar to you than your hometown hangouts. At the least, the University offers a home away from home--a different scene altogether for first years and even for returning students, whom each year join the entering class with a ritual--the painful drive down Route 29.
Despite the drive, weary travelers may note a few Charlottesville landmarks along the way--crucial (both franchise and not) restaurants and hot spots for returning and new students.
While new students and their families may not get to view the Corner's offerings right away, the area offers students a rich local history as well as a contemporary scene--where else can you drink enough varieties of caffeine to survive exams, yet still hit local landmarks?
But at what many students consider the heart of Charlottesville, stands a tradition that can't be shaken off through the years. The University, the site where many first years spend their waking days and nights, has a carefully sculpted image, but from student demonstrations to outdoor concerts to Nobel Prize winners, the Grounds can be as action-packed as any small city.
The University, in many ways, is a city within a city, but that doesn't mean newcomers should ignore the offerings of Charlottesville proper. From the summer and fall's Fridays after Five to the spring's Festival of the Book, C'ville offers students ample opportunity to remain connected to the "real world" while they attend college. And it offers the charm of a small town--the downtown area is known for its bohemian, book-loving quality, as well as its ice rink, movie theaters and hang-out atmosphere on the weekends.
Driving up 29, you may find you're entering a new landscape, a higher level of education or a new freedom from home. But you may also find that you are entering a new stage of life--one marked by new friends, customs, entertainment and a home sweet home.