Last year, I wasn’t very adventurous and stayed on campus most of the time. My best excuse was that I didn’t have a mode of transportation other than the bus, which was an endeavor I longed to avoid unless absolutely necessary. I admit I have only taken the bus twice. The first time, I had a nice, somewhat confusing conversation with a man and his “Madea Goes to Jail” DVD, which, according to him, spoke a language only he could hear. Luckily, he was fluent and more than willing to translate what Tyler Perry’s counter-identity had to say.

The second time I took on the noble steed of Erie transportation, I met the “real” Whoopi Goldberg, who I may have been convinced by, if she were not in fact a he who was well above six feet tall. He felt fabulous though, or so he told me, so if he wanted to be Whoopi Goldberg, so be it.

Needless to say, braving the transit system can have its ups and downs. Sure, you get to where you need to go and you meet some interesting people, but realistically who has time to spend 45 minutes going to Walmart for a protractor?

The dilemma of freshman year continues. You need to go places and you want to go places. But how do you get past your limited transportation? Having a campus in the city is great for freshmen, as there are numerous places within walking distance of the dorms. Fair warning: walking down the streets of Erie, you get to meet plenty of DVD translators and “true” Whoopi Goldbergs, but you also get to meet some genuinely interesting people.

So, here’s a few places you should know about and didn’t know you wanted to know about, all within a distance your exhausted freshman-fifteen-weighed-down legs can handle:

  1. Casablanca Hookah Lounge

We all want to be a little rebellious when we come to college. And reasonably so, for it’s our first long stretch without our parents to hover over our shoulders. I for one felt rebellious enough making my bed every morning (I never made it at home and felt that keeping my room organized was a stick-it-to-the-man move because I never kept anything clean at home, where the “man” was in fact my mother). But if you want to truly test the waters of parental worry, head to the Casablanca Hookah Lounge on 5th Street, where chill vibes and friendly banter fill the dim-lit, calm atmosphere.

  1. UPMC Hamot

You are sitting at the desk in your dorm room eating your sad little microwaveable oatmeal and you look at the clock. It reads 8:55. You have class at 9:05…in Morosky. You are currently in Finegan. You have a quick little heart attack, collect yourself and bolt out the door in a blur of brown sugar Quaker Oats and hastily thrown on clothes, a sight even the Flash himself would be intimidated by. Never underestimate a freshman in a hurry, or do because as you fly down the staircase to get to class, your uncoordinated DNA chooses that exact moment to inconvenience you. Oh snap! Now you have what you suspect is a sprained ankle. You accept your defeat, hobble to the health center and are told you should have it checked out with a scan of some sort. Go to UPMC Hamot on State Street to get that checked out before you permanently damage yourself.

  1. Dollar General

Backstory: you are taking 18 credits and are involved in more clubs and activities than you ever thought possible. Now, you get ready to take a shower, grabbing your tote and the ever-vital shower footwear. But alas, you see you do not have shampoo. You emptied it yesterday and made a mental note to get some after classes at Walmart, but now it’s 6pm, you smell like the Knight Club (a charming aroma of grease and karaoke) and you don’t know what to do. Grab a buddy and walk down State Street, meet the wonderful convenience of the Dollar General, buy your Suave and take a shower before you summon the ghosts of fryers past with your lovely scent.

  1. Rite Aid

Need some Band-Aids for your failed attempts at finally learning to shave without nicking your skin? Or maybe some cold medicine so you can drudge through classes without sneezing all over the lab sample you spent the first hour preparing? Well, look no further than the Rite Aid on State Street. For all your non-Dollar-General-applicable purchases, Rite Aid’s got your back.

  1. Dobbin’s Landing

Affectionately deemed “the Bayfront” by most Gannon students, Dobbin’s Landing is the perfect place to escape to on a nice day. Even though those nice days are far and few between in good ole Erie, enjoy them while you can. As a freshman, getting to Presque Isle can be complicated, so Dobbin’s Landing is an easily substituted area. Take the 15 minute walk to the Bayfront, plop down on one of the benches, start your homework, daydream about falling into the water, realize you lost your place in the chapter, start over and finally finish your work.

  1. Gridley Park

On days when I became stir-crazy in my over-heated dorm, I would go for a stroll down 6th Street, admiring the beautiful architecture along the way to Gridley Park. A small park, it is perfect for a short walk or for sitting and reading about the mitochondria for Molecular Cellular Biology. Or “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer”. Either or, take your pick. If you hail from a more heavily tree-populated area at home like me, then you may relish Gridley Park in the fall, which gives more a feel of fall than the sparse, lonesome trees on the Erie streets.