Have you been keeping track of how often the city of Buffalo pops up in national lists of “best places to live”? Recently, The New York Times released a list of top cities for college grads and I thought “This is it folks!” Real, tangible proof that Buffalo is catching on in a big way across the nation. I’m proud that Buffalo is making it on these lists, especially with sources like The New York Times (big fan). We even beat out New York City! But the unfortunate news is that people are still surprised we’re ranking at all.
The second paragraph from the article stings a bit, doesn’t it? “And as young people continue to spurn the suburbs for urban living, more of them are moving to the very heart of cities — even in economically troubled places like Buffalo and Cleveland.” Even in.
It still comes as a surprise to people outside of the Buffalo circuit that we’re worth the nickel we’re famous for. But you know what? I once was a skeptical outsider too. In 2014 I graduated from the University at Buffalo and like many of my peers; I chose to stay – despite pressure from family and friends to move to cities like New York or even Denver (number 12 and 3 on the list, respectively).
For me, the allure of New York City was something I explored as a freshman in college. I attended school at small university in New Jersey because of its close proximity to the city. I could hop on a train and be in the middle of Manhattan in less than 45 minutes. It only took a few months for me to realize that it wasn’t worth the hype (at least to me).
In such a large city, I felt small and insignificant. It was cold. People were ruthless. I longed for the green grass, the tall trees, and the clean air that Upstate New York is legendary for. Despite several attempts, I couldn’t picture myself living among the millions of people in Manhattan.
Up until that point in my life I had never been to Buffalo; it wasn’t even on my radar (Syracuse: born and raised). During spring break, I stopped by to visit friends at UB and I fell in love. I loved the Skyway and how it felt when you sped over it during sunsets. I loved the vast peace and quiet of Delaware Park, the bustling and thrilling night life of Main Street and Elmwood Village, and the electrifying energy (and humble optimism) of Sundays when the Bills were playing. I loved the architecture of the buildings downtown – how each street had its own historic little buildings on it. I loved the history and the stories that were behind every element of Buffalo. I loved it all.
UB was holding their “UB-Con Festival” during one of my first visits and – holy shit. It was amazing to me that a university could be home to so many interesting and bold people. It took me three weeks to decide to apply as a transfer student and three more to be accepted.
Since my initial visits to UB as a college student, I’ve fallen even more in love with the vitality and passion that I’ve discovered in Buffalo. In just one city, you can explore dozens of cultures, attend art and yoga festivals, go to live concerts, cheer at NHL and NFL games, and still feel like a significant person. Buffalo is small enough where I still run into people I know, but large enough to afford me new opportunities and adventures.
As a newly employed member of the work force in Buffalo, life is affordable and exciting. It takes me 15 minutes to commute to and from work, and I earn enough to cover my living expenses (let’s be honest, it’s a huge concern for kids my age). I’m not a ramen-noodle-munching college graduate like I was scared I would have to become. I can pay my bills, eat at delicious local restaurants (Amy’s Place, Ashker’s, Cantina Loco, The Steer, Blue Monk… I could go on but that’ll have to be a separate blog post) and I still have enough for rent.
It seems to me that Buffalo is a place where you can grow. You can spread your wings and expand your horizons but still find great people to lean on if you need them. Community is everywhere. Whether you’re a twenty something, or an immigrant, or simply a Buffalo Bills fan, there are people here who will love you and support you. I think that’s my favorite thing about Buffalo. I‘ve fallen in love with the potential that Buffalo has; and I’m even more in love with the potential that Buffalo gives me.