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I’m going to say something that I bet you’re all thinking, but no one actually wants to say. Are you ready?

The “college bubble,” as I like to call it, can be kind of boring, even depressing at times. Especially if you live in university housing, it can feel like your college is your whole life. And yes, college is exciting and busy and full of new opportunities, but it can be hard to separate school from the rest of your life. This is especially difficult for me, an introverted person who isn’t into parties or large social scenes.

Often times, I have felt like UVA monopolizes my entire life. And once I decided to move here and make Charlottesville home, I was afraid that this feeling would only deepen, and I would feel overwhelmed, and never be able to turn my “work brain” off. I’m not sure how many other people feel like this, but if you do, know you’re not alone.

This phenomenon was hard to escape, but I was able to figure out some ways to get more in touch with the city that you’re spending your college years in. First, remember that Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp are your new best friends; a great place to start is to search “Best things to do in [insert your town here].” That seems obvious, but it will give you some great starter ideas. Here, you’ll find suggestions like Monticello, Carter Mountain, and more! However, after the first few weekends, you’re gonna need more than just a quick search, and that’s why I’m here!

First, I absolutely LOVE to study in little cafés during the week. I’m not much of a library gal (they feel to sterile), so I knew that I needed to find another place, one where I’d be able focus for periods longer than 5 minutes. By finding a little café in your town to study in, you’re killing two birds with one stone; you’re getting out and exploring your new town, and still staying on top of your work. This isn’t necessarily going to help in turning the “work brain” off, but it will help you feel like your life isn’t devoted to your university.

Next, I would recommend exploring your town’s downtown area. Here in Charlottesville, the Downtown Mall is a pretty well known pedestrian shopping/entertainment area, but not a lot of UVA students know much about it. There are plenty of well known spots on the mall, such as The Paramount, Kilwin’s Ice Cream, and Millers. But, there are so many lesser known spots, that are worth your time, and never as populated as the more well known spots. If you’re a foodie, try some hole in the wall places, such as Revolutionary Soup, Chap’s Ice Cream, and Christian’s Pizza (Downtown). If you like little shops, check out Market Street Market, Pie Chest, and Alakazam Toys. Even if you don’t purchase anything, all of these spots provided unique shopping and dining experiences which really help curate the feel of the Downtown Mall. There are plenty more amazing spaces on the Downtown Mall, and I don’t have the space ton give them all a shoutout, but if you ever have a free afternoon, head downtown with no plan or time limit and wander into a few places you’ve never been before. Most are locally owned and everyone you meet has a unique story to share. There are also lots of fun spots at Barracks Road Shopping Center, which is much closer to grounds; these are great options for those who don’t have a car at the moment! Check out Greenberry’s Coffee Roasters, The Virginia Shop, Rebecca’s Natural Foods, and more! And if you’re reading this and you’re not located in Charlottesville, visit us! But seriously, I’m sure you’ll be able to find lots of cute, welcoming spots like these if you just explore.

Finally, my biggest piece of advice, especially for all my introverts, is to check out all your locally owned bookstores. One of my favorite ways to spend a free day, especially when I’ve been feeling burnt out, is to have a bookstore day by myself! I’ll put on a cute outfit, go to a cute café (can you tell I love local coffee shops), and grab a pastry and coffee, and I’ll hit all the bookstores I can before the day’s end. They can be spread kind of far apart, so you may have to plan on riding the bus or strategically planning which spots to hit, but it makes for such a fun day! A few of my favorites are Blue Whale Books, 2nd Act Books, and, of course, Barnes and Noble. I especially love visiting the second-hand shops, so that I can take home a large haul without spending a ton of money. Bookstore day is a great way for me to recharge and tap back into who I am, outside of the context of being a student. Days like these provide me with so much peace, so I would highly recommend trying this out, especially after a stressful week. You can go alone, with your significant other, or friends, and still have a super fun and extremely rewarding day! This is a wonderful way to recharge in a way that doesn’t only recharge the academic part of yourself. You are a wonderful student, but you are more than that after all!

I hope you can all use this advice and explore your new city, and feel more like yourself again! It’s important to feel more than just an academic machine; if not, you’ll experience burn out super fast, and that’s not what we want. Take a day (especially with fall break coming!) and pretend you’re on vacation; sip a latte, treat yourself to a new book or cute top, and refresh yourself. Take care of yourselves, and I’ll be back soon for more local, budget friendly insight.

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Hi I'm Morgan! I use she/they pronouns. I'm a third year at the University of Virginia majoring in Art History. My greatest passions are studying Buddhist art and raising my 2 cats. My favorite food is a good chicken salad sandwich or an everything bagel. I'm a first gen, low income student living on my own, so if you ever need budget hacks, I'm your gal! Happy to have you here!
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