Whenever I hear anyone make a snide remark about a “townie,” I glare and then I puff out my chest. Who do these students think they are? They are the ones here temporarily, taking advantage of our turf.
I moved to Charlottesville in seventh grade, and came to UVA as a first-year in 2009. My “townie” side often comes out—especially when people tell me there is “nothing to do” in the city off Grounds. But I am a student nonetheless, and I have loved my time here at Mr. Jefferson’s University, and recognizing that UVA is a part of Charlottesville as much as Charlottesville is a part of UVA, regardless of whether or not either side wants to embrace it.
Not all my takeaways from college have been positive. I leave with some concerns about UVA’s treatment of its workers and the perpetuation of negative social and cultural norms, including the University’s treatment of sexual assault.
But my time here has seen me through some of the most important learning and personal growth experiences of my life. This is where I met my best friend and where I lost her.
Move-in day was wet, and thankfully cool.
The trek was a brutal 15-minute drive from my house, and I remember wondering many times if I was ever going to see my family again. (I jest.)
Having corresponded with my new “roomie” all summer—we both liked dancing, books, the Spanish language, and long chats, as demonstrated by our novelesque e-mails back and forth—it was no surprise that we immediately clicked. She had gotten there during the early morning move-in rush at 7 and left a note on the door’s white board that she would be back soon.
Halfway through lugging my things up the stairs to the third floor of a now-demolished building, Webb, I opened the door to a British-twinged (she had lived in London for much of her life), “ALLLIIII EEEEEEEE” as she flung her arms around me, enveloping me in one of her famous bear squeezes. We grinned at each other and became immediate friends.
You know those people you stay up with all night talking at a slumber party even after you’ve turned out the lights and said goodnight? She was that friend for me. She was what made UVA home.
I was the “practical” one (whatever that means), and she was the one who encouraged those around her to stop and recognize beauty. A dancer who truly expressed her joy for life every time she danced, she inspired me to dance while at UVA—another part of this University that has shaped who I have become.
Last summer, she suddenly passed away and with her passing, a part of UVA has been lost.
A few weeks ago, one of the earrings she gave me for my 20th birthday fell out of my ear during a perfect Virginia spring afternoon. Perhaps it marks that the time has come to move on from both Charlottesville and UVA.
As I get ready to leave for the Southwest, my experiences as a student have constructed a more complete picture of Charlottesville. I now know how many of the once-mysterious roads connect. People I knew as neighbors and friends’ parents became professors and mentors. I still relate to Charlottesville from the perspective of a “native,” but I have come to realize that despite my straddling two worlds, there are many more Charlottesville worlds of which I am not a part. I guess no matter where we are or where we go, we can never be part of every single component of anything. There are many different narratives. And some of them we lose along the way.—Allie Cooper
Allie Cooper, a Monticello High School graduate majoring in Spanish and Global Development Studies at UVA, spent part of her last two college semesters working for C-VILLE as a news intern. She’s leaving Charlottesville in the fall for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Arizona State University.