Charlottesville boasts a wholesome selection of activities for its fellow residents—from embarking on a revitalizing hike to apple picking to visiting one of its various historic sites. Unfortunately, most students are often too deeply nestled on Grounds to venture outside the seclusion of grounds life where the only thing they know and breathe is college.
What then is their escape into the real world? If you ask students in a random survey where they like to spend their free hours away from dorm life and studying, odds are that they will name a restaurant on The Corner still heavily frequented by fellow students. A few oddballs will name an obscure place as their temple of release, located deep within the groves and convolutions of town that requires an hour-long bus ride that no one wants to spare.
The million-dollar question is: where can students find their sanctuary in the real world, devoid of the constant college presence and heavy time devotion? The answer is so simple, so brilliantly anticlimactic that many have never considered it— the bookstore on Barracks. I discovered this on a whim one day when I was unknowingly craving the scent of home. The familiar Barnes and Nobles in the popular outlet mall commanded my attention as the sole bookstore in a mixed drink of retail and grocery stores.
Imagine the culture shock I had upon finding the utter scarcity of students. It made perfect sense— who on earth would spend their time away from studying surrounded by books? However, there was a key difference in that these are the books we wanted to read. They are the books of our free time, our wish list, and our old world. More than that, they are books that do not allude to our prospective future in the slightest but rather pure, whispering fantasy. There are timeworn tales of chivalry, by-passed teenage angst, and alternate supernatural dimensions. Just by spending a few minutes inside, breathing in the java smoke of Starbucks and running a finger through the latest murder mysteries, I could feel my spirit rejuvenate. The days when I could afford an hour or two, I could even brush up on the newest novels. It is all on my own pace, in my own time, on my own, and that is the true beauty of it.
Some recapture their sanctuaries through intense workouts in the AFC, some bask away their time in the mall, and some ride horses in the farm. In the end, we are all seeking that familiar escape inside of us, colloquially known as alone time, because though the treasured college experience is a shared one, we are all still distinct. The good news for us is that Charlottesville has a little something for each and every one of its pupils. The activity of window-shopping, book style, just happens to be mine.
By Jenny Zhou, Staff Writer