There are a lot of stereotypes associated with Isla Vista. People say it’s trashy, a hard-drinking party town, etc. Some of the stereotypes might be partly true, but one of the fundamental misconceptions is the idea that the residents are all alike.
There’s a natural tendency to think of Isla Vista as a haven for students, but if you spend some time in I.V., you’ll meet artists, professionals, and people visiting from all over the world. There is really a diversity of individuals living in the area that give it an eclectic feel.
Summer is the perfect time to head down to downtown I.V. While you are sitting outside the Bagel Café or eating pizza at Woodstock’s, you might find yourself chatting with someone from France, Ireland, you name it. You might get into a long conversation and hear that person’s unique perspective on the area. I.V. has a small-town feel that makes people feel comfortable about striking up a conversation with the person next to them.
Take a walk along the bluffs. You might see people sitting in front of easels, painting the view from the cliffs. It’s fascinating to watch as the artists work to capture the natural beauty of the area.
Another surprise for people who aren’t familiar with the area is the fact that there are a number of seniors living in Isla Vista. There is a retirement facility named Friendship Manor on El Colegio Road. You might meet some of the residents on a walk through the neighborhood or in the local stores. If you happen to talk to one of them, you might find yourself chatting with a WWII veteran or a retired school teacher. You never know who you might meet.
The idea that I.V. is a party town that is home to hordes of virtually indistinguishable students with little on their minds except having fun is simply false. Some of the students who live in I.V. go to UCSB, others to Santa Barbara City College. And while City College students might be a little younger, and some of them might not be as serious about school just yet, this isn’t one of the differences that stands out. What really differentiates students is the group they choose to live and hang out with.
People in Isla Vista tend to live with those who have similar interests. There is the house with the water ski team, the women’s lacrosse team, or the fraternity. There are also groups of students interested in the environment, gardening, and all sorts of other interesting things. These are the types of people you can envision changing the world. Maybe living in such a beautiful place has inspired them. You can walk down almost any street during the weekend and hear music coming from house after house. When you come across a great band, it’s a pleasure to stand for a few moments and listen to the music.
When people talk about I.V. residents, they need to remember that we’re not all alike.