If you mention Cleveland in front of a person who’s never been here, the only thing about nine out of 10 people are going to know about the city is that the river that runs through it caught fire once. In my experience, people usually base the rest of their idea of the city on that one event. Every time I told a friend or family member what city I went to school in, they got the impression that I lived in a miserable, broken-down, dangerous, post-industrial wasteland. And they couldn’t be more wrong.
First of all, Cleveland is a great place. There’s more to do here than a small-town kid like me ever knew. Since I came here a year ago, I’ve been to protests, seen arthouse movies in a tiny theater, eaten dim sum in AsiaTown, watched the Cleveland Cavaliers break the curse and seen pretty much every band on my bucket list. Living here was everything I’d imagined living in a city would be like, and I love it.
But we’ve heard all that before, at the very least from the pitch for Cleveland given out by Case Western Reserve University admissions. It’s all true, but the unfortunate fact is that a lot of people still just don’t like the idea of living here. But I think Cleveland is just misunderstood. As college students, most of us are living away from home for the first time, and many of us, including myself, had a choice between at least a few different places for college. We had the opportunity to live in a few different cities or towns, but we all picked here. I think that’s important; no matter if you’re from New York, LA, Beijing, London or anywhere else, you chose to take your very first steps away from home in Cleveland.
The idea of calling Cleveland home has been bouncing around in my head since I first moved here, but it became much more important when my family moved from Rochester, which is about four hours’ drive from Cleveland, to Charlotte, North Carolina this summer. Now when people ask where my hometown is, I’m not sure what to say. I was born and raised in Rochester, but it just doesn’t feel right to call it my hometown after my family moved. But the more I thought about it, the better I felt about moving. I remembered everything I loved about CWRU and Cleveland as soon as I got back, and in the month since I’ve moved in, I’ve felt as at home here as I have anywhere.
To say CWRU has a diverse student body would be an understatement. We come from all over the world and from every walk of life. The only thing we all have in common is that, for a brief reason that’s different for everyone, we all decided we were going to start here. I think that’s worth celebrating.