You can put the student in RVA, but you can’t put RVA into the student…
I remember first moment I felt like I was a part of the greater Richmond community very well. Up until that moment I felt (like many UR students) hopelessly alienated from the city. Sure, I’d venture into Carytown for meals and shopping on weekends, and sometimes I’d even make it all the way downtown for concerts or events, but I was not a “Richmonder. “
As a UR student, I struggled with finding my identity as a citizen. Was I just a college student, or did I somehow belong in this city that was so close, but seemed so far away? All of these thoughts and feelings flooded my mind each time I’d enter a downtown venue and respond with “VCU” when asked where I attend college because I was ashamed to be associated with the “University of Rich-kids.”
But, those feelings melted away one Friday night last semester when I took my two freshmen mentees on a trip to First Fridays downtown. Because none of us has a car, I arranged for us to meet up and take the shuttle. But when we arrived, the shuttle was full, and I had to think quickly to figure something out for my disappointed mentees. That’s when I realized that The Hop bus would be coming soon; I didn’t know exactly where it went, but I knew it would take us downtown. So, we got on the bus and I asked the driver about the downtown stops. He mentioned a stop on Grace Street and a cross street that I didn’t know. But, from my “Richmond Politics” course at UR Downtown last spring I remembered that a stop on Grace Street would get us close enough to UR Downtown, so we boarded the bus.
When we got off the bus downtown, I realized that two more freshman had followed us on to the bus because we looked like we knew what we were doing and the original shuttle was full. As we were standing on the corner of Grace Street I looked at all of the bright eyed freshman looking back at me, excited to get to know their city, and felt proud that I knew the way to the galleries. I was able to get us there quickly (even though it was a bit of a walk), and I enjoyed watching the freshman revel in their first, First Friday. I had never felt like a Richmonder before, but in that moment, I knew that I was one.
By Emmy Morse, ’15