Not just a Rockbridge townie

Josette Corazza

One of the most common responses I get when I tell people that I’m from Lexington is “Oh, so you’re a townie.” The statement is normally followed up by an assumption – “So you wanted to be close to your parents?” or “You didn’t want to go too far from home, huh?”

With my home and family forty minutes out of town in Rockbridge County, I have never lived in the city of Lexington, but I consider myself as much a part of the community as any true townie. Deciding to attend school in my hometown presented an abundance of pros and cons. On one hand I have a significant advantage over other students, including familiarity with the best downtown restaurants, knowledge of lesser-known hiking trails in the surrounding area, and having close friendships with the children of many professors. Some notable drawbacks include unexpectedly running into my mother during orientation week, the missed opportunity of exploring a new place and culture, and being all too familiar with the lack of a shopping mall within a reasonable radius.

Before I matriculated to Washington and Lee, I was told that living on campus is an entirely different world than living in Lexington. After spending three weeks here, I can truthfully attest to that statement. I have explored streets of the city that I was formerly unaware existed, seen fashion and fads on campus that are definitely not native to Lexington, and had the opportunity to see the quaint characteristics of Rockbridge County through my peers’ eyes.

Walking through the streets and shops of downtown Lexington is a different experience than it once was for me simply because I am treated differently as a Washington and Lee student. The “Get Downtown” event during orientation week was an interesting experience. I knew all of the stores we went into as well as many of the employees at those stores, but I had the added benefit of receiving promotional gift cards and discounts simply because I was a member of the Washington and Lee community.

So far, almost everything at Washington and Lee has convinced me that I chose the perfect fit for a school. I have loved being a part of the speaking tradition on campus. On the back roads of Rockbridge County, it is customary to raise a salutatory finger while passing another car. For me, taking part in the Speaking Tradition at W&L  has been an extension of the friendliness I admire and appreciate in the greater Lexington area. It has been one of my favorite experiences  since arriving on campus.

There is one aspect of life at Washington and Lee that made an opposite impression on me. For years, I have participated in community clean-up days around Rockbridge County and once followed the stream of recycling in the city for an investigative essay. On the first night of orientation week, I was dismayed to see how carelessly students tossed party cups and cans onto residential streets and sidewalks. This is the Lexington I know and love. It  hurt me to see such outright disrespect exhibited by people who I thought would have known  better.

I understand that my fellow freshmen cannot be expected to understand how special of a place Lexington is in only their first month on campus, but I hope that with time they will begin to see what a friendly and caring community it really is. The residents of Rockbridge County are proud of Washington and Lee, and I know that the students take pride in their surroundings, as well. My hope for being a townie thrown into campus life is to show everyone around me why I chose not to stray too far from home. My appreciation for this area will  only grow throughout the next four years I spend on campus, and I could not be more excited about it.