ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a better Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Uma Srivastava. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
Close your eyes and imagine a timid young 17-year-old girl entering “Malfunction Junction” with a car full of school supplies, boxes, and clothes.
She had never lived anywhere else but in her hometown of Meridian, MS,– population 39,000 people.
As she looked around the tall buildings in downtown Birmingham, excited, frightened, and intrigued were some of the emotions going through her head. Her parents moved her in and drove away.
She anxiously sat on the edge of her bed with a layout of downtown Birmingham that her family and friends gave and advised her never to approach the old, stinky tunnels.
That was Birmingham in August 2008. With a blink of an eye, fast-forward to July 2017; the tunnels have transformed into icons for Birmingham. The land dumps near the tunnels have transformed into Railroad Park and the Rotary Trail.
Just in my 8 short years in Birmingham, I have seen this city transform and am extremely proud to call it my second home! Birmingham has given me an exceptional education, innovative job, and the best of friends anyone could imagine.
No better university than UAB
I could not have asked for a better university and college experience than the one I received at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). My undergraduate honors program, Science and Technology Honors Program, provided me with the tools and foundation to establish my future. Post-graduation I joined UAB’s first Biotechnology Masters Program, which led me to work at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Washington, D.C. for a year.
I chose Birmingham over Washington, DC
My family always jokes about this, but I am probably the only crazy one who moved back to Birmingham from Washington, D.C. As I reflect upon this decision, I knew that the move was the best decision of my life. Birmingham is a perfect combination of a small city and a large metropolitan city. I then gave it some thought and the answer is simple—the job, opportunities, history, and culture.
Many questioned me when I decided to give up a serious government job to work at a start-up? Three years later, I can firmly attest that it was one of the best decisions I have made; Pack Health welcomed me with open arms and has given me the avenue to help many others around the world with chronic conditions. Pack Health has given me the independence and flexibility that is not found at many other companies.
How I stay out of trouble
While around Birmingham, I see many familiar faces. I am often asked the questions: “What do you do for fun?” “What is there to do after work or on the weekends?”
My answer can be lengthy as I am always out in the community, actively involved, and staying out of trouble! Like I mentioned, Birmingham has so many opportunities that I find it hard to just select one. Some of my involvement include: UAB School of Health Professions Junior Advisory Board President, Member of: Rotaract, Railroad Park Foundation Junior Board, Science and Technology Alumni Executive Council, KultureCity National Board, and FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association.
What makes Birmingham unique is our array of outdoor activities. A stark contrast from eight years ago, one cannot beat yoga at Railroad Park, riding a Zip bike to Sloss Furnace, or a morning of fresh produce and crafts on Saturday morning at Pepper Place.
The involvement within Birmingham activities is great for all ages from McWane Science Center for young children to UAB and Railroad Park events for adults. If you have not done any of those, I highly recommend you get moving!
Birmingham’s hidden gem
Birmingham possesses another hidden gem as a great volunteer opportunity– KultureCity. This national non-profit organization was founded in Birmingham and has grown tremendously. The goal is to create a community of inclusion and acceptance for all. One would think something like this would have been initiated in a larger city, but it began right here. In three short years, KultureCity has impacted over 135,000 individuals! If you’re looking for a great volunteering experience, reach out to us!
My favorite spot
Now let’s talk about my favorite spot in the city – The Vulcan! He is one of the most famous icons of Birmingham and even is included in a song. Honestly, he is my first love! Whether it is the day time or the city lights at night, Vulcan is one of the best spots of Birmingham.
The quiet area around there gives no justice to the bustling city beneath. One can see the UAB campus and the downtown area along with the “Malfunction Junction.” One of my fondest memories is taking my family there and showing them the view of Birmingham. Many mornings, I enjoy doing yoga in front of that view.
The fireworks behind the statue on Fourth of July are an unforgettable experience. Even to this date, I stand in awe of the iconic statue that gives tribute to the history of Birmingham and has contributed to what the city has become today.
Culture and food
The culture of Birmingham is always welcoming with open arms to all nationalities. Who knew Birmingham had a strong Indian community (Indian Cultural Society) that hosts such quality events?
As I explored the city, I realized the Birmingham Museum of Art has such fine collections and a Nataraja hanging out in its gardens. Birmingham also has a classical Indian dance fusion group, Notinee. Furthermore, Birmingham is one of the only cities that has such scrumptious food of all ethnicities and keeps adding to it.
Don’t underestimate Birmingham
Looking back, I honestly underestimated Birmingham. So now I ask you—“Why Birmingham?” Give this some serious consideration and know that all answers can surely be found within this magnificent city that was first started just as an intersection for the North and South.
This Magic City has truly transformed my outlook and brought magic into all aspects of my life. Birmingham has been very kind to me, and I want to thank Birmingham for giving me the finest 8 years of my life thus far.
Why Birmingham? Because it’s the best place to be!
What will you say when someone asks you “Why Birmingham?”
Uma Srivastava was born and raised in Meridian, MS and has been a resident of Birmingham, AL for 9 years. She holds a Master of Science in Biotechnology from The University of Alabama in Birmingham and a Bachelors in Biology, Chemistry, and Spanish from UAB. She worked at the National Institutes of Health before joining Pack Health. She was recently awarded “Rising Star in Healthcare” by the Birmingham Business Journal.
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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org