Reflections on Arlington Life from College-Bound Students

This article was written by Audrey Batcheller

Washington-Lee High School 2013 graduation ceremonyWith college move-in dates right around the corner, many members of Arlington’s high school graduating class of 2013 are moving out of Arlington for the first time in their lives.

Whether they’ve spent the past 18 years in the county or have just been around for high school, these young adults have unique perspectives on life in Arlington.

Devon Brown, a lifelong Arlingtonian, will be attending Wake Forest University this year and has mixed feelings about leaving Arlington.

“It’s been really easy to get involved in the community here,” said Brown, who was a member of the Teen Network Board. Aside from her time involved in the community, however, Brown does complain that there’s not much to do in Arlington for high school students.

“Recently I’ve felt like the only option when going out with friends to do something is getting something to eat,” said Brown.

Nicole Collantes, an upcoming Radford University freshman, disagrees with Brown on that point.

“It’s their own fault if people are bored,” she said. “Around Arlington, there are so many places to go to and shop. Also, there’s always an art or music festival going on if you know where to look. And even if people don’t think there’s anything to do around here, the metro takes you all around D.C., where there’s even more things to do.”

Alec Schadelbauer, who will be a freshman at Virginia Tech, said he stayed active in Arlington through volunteerism.

“There are so many ways to get involved in the community through leadership and service,” said Schadelbauer. “The Leadership Arlington Youth Program was one of the best experiences of my life so far.”

The county’s proximity to Washington, D.C., has been the best part of the Arlington experience to many students. Justin Snow and Maggie Burgos, who will be attending George Mason University and Colby College in Maine respectively, have taken advantage of living near the political hub of the country.

“Growing up near D.C. has helped me have opportunities to see government happen,” said Burgos, who went to President Obama’s first inauguration and hopes to work on Capitol Hill.

Snow interned on Capitol Hill and said he and other local high school students “[have] access to a lot of things that other [areas] don’t.”

As privileged as all its graduates feel about being able to live in Arlington, a few common criticisms arose among the students: the traffic, the dreaded “Arlington Bubble,” and the weather.

Brown lives in a neighborhood near Clarendon, and if given one word to describe the amount of traffic around her house, she would choose “obnoxious.” Brown said, “There’s constant construction and so much traffic, and it adds so much travel time.”

Burgos learned to drive in Arlington and said, “I didn’t like the crazy drivers in Arlington, but I’m also probably a crazy driver because I grew up in Arlington.”

As far as Arlington’s community goes, it’s nearly impossible to go out anywhere without seeing somebody you know, and while some students love that about Arlington, many are looking forward to getting away from that.

“I feel like sometimes you can get caught up in the Arlington bubble a little bit. We’re cut off from the rest of Virginia because we’re so metropolitan. It’s a really good place to grow up but you can also forget about the troubles that are facing the rest of Virginia and D.C.,” said Burgos.

Arianna Urcia is looking forward to a new environment at the University of Washington.

“Now that I’ve been here my whole life, I’m ready to get out a little bit,” she said.

Arlington has its fair share of beautiful days, but none of the graduates seem particularly upset about moving to an area with a more temperate climate.

“I really dislike the weather here, specifically the humidity,” said Heather Banikas, who hopes to escape it at Virginia Tech.

Despite varying likes and dislikes of Arlington, one thing rang true with all of these graduates: Arlington is a tremendous place to live, and all of them are considering moving back here after college or later in their lives.

“I would definitely consider living here after college,” Schadelbauer said. “Arlington is a prime location for internships and jobs, and it would also be a great place to raise a family.”

Banikas also has interest in raising her family in Arlington, but after she’s established herself professionally and makes more than a starting salary. After all, real estate here is expensive.

“When I have kids I would like for them to have the same opportunities that I had growing up,” said Banikas.

Brown would like to explore the country more and see some bigger cities before she settles down, but said she anticipates moving back here eventually.

“Ultimately, Arlington is my home,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a love-hate relationship, but I couldn’t think of a better place to have grown up.”

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