My bucket list before attending college as a first year was a short one and included some things many other students most likely also had on theirs when coming to Lehigh. It included:
- Visit “Christmas City USA” in the weeks and days leading up to Christmas.
- Attend the Celtic Classic.
- Shop (or window shop) on Main Street.
- Explore South Mountain and visit lookout point and the Star of Bethlehem.
This generic list of Bethlehem-related activities included things that people expect to experience as residents and visitors of the city. What may come as a surprise, however, is that the city of Bethlehem is not unfamiliar to me. For my entire life, I have lived just 10 minutes away from all of these activities that are so well known.
Contrary to popular belief, I did not have a completely sheltered childhood that caused my lack of involvement as a resident of Bethlehem. Really, I just had preconceived notions of all of these events before I really gave them a chance.
From what I knew, downtown Bethlehem at Christmastime was a commercialized method for the city to make money through venues such as Christkindlmarkt. The Celtic Classic was an excuse for people to get drunk. Main Street was a place that teenagers gathered in the night during Musikfest. And South Mountain was a back-road route to neighboring towns.
The more times I missed out on visiting these events and places every year, the more I began to realize that my notions were incorrect.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own for not taking full advantage of what my hometown had to offer. I figured that it would always be there, open for me to experience if and whenever I wanted to.
When I finally became realistic and noticed that I was letting time pass away, it became difficult to find time to do everything that I wanted to. I received another chance when I decided to attend Lehigh for college, and I promised myself that I would no longer take Bethlehem for granted.
Many people would be opposed to going to college so close to home. They want to live in and explore a new environment away from the family and hometown friends that were always a part of their life. Ten minutes seems so close when one wants to get away, and that is the mentality that most of my high school friends also had.
However, I had the opposite idea. There was so much of Bethlehem that I had not yet discovered by the time college rolled around, and I wanted to experience as much of it as I could. That was when I came up with my bucket list of everything I had not yet experienced to its full extent.
Although it is close in distance, those 10 minutes between my home and school made all the difference in the world. I felt as far away from the familiarity of my home as everyone else. My status as a “townie” made no difference to me as I navigated the foreign halls of the University Center and tried to find my classes in Coppee and Drown.
Of course, the perks of being able to go home whenever I needed to, either to pick up something I left behind or to occasionally remove myself from the “Lehigh bubble” were very helpful in my transition to college.
Still, the transition was difficult, and after a semester, I was only able to cross one of those things off my bucket list when I spent a day window-shopping on Main Street before I moved back in for the second semester.
If there were one item on that list that I put before the others in order of importance, it would have to be visiting downtown Bethlehem in the weeks before Christmas. As I look past the commerciality of Christkindlmarkt and the other venues that spot the streets, I see that Bethlehem really does live up to its nickname of “Christmas City USA.”
Seven semesters of my time at Lehigh remain, and I hope to cross off everything on my bucket list by the time I graduate and possibly move to another place with many other things to see.
If I could give one piece of advice to both those who are so-called “townies” and those who live hours away, it would be to take full advantage of their time here at Lehigh. If one stays inside the “Lehigh bubble” the entire time, they will have many missed opportunities to explore the beautiful city of Bethlehem.