You can instantly think of the best store back home to buy your favorite snacks, the best restaurants to grab lunch, and the best coffee shops to study with friends (with free Wi-Fi, of course), but what about in the US? Finding the perfect college town to fit your needs can be almost as important as finding the perfect college, especially as an international student living so far from home.
Within the United States colleges and universities are constructed in all kinds of places â€“ huge cities and rural towns too, so once you’ve narrowed down your list of colleges to a handful or so, it’s important to do some research into the area surrounding your prospect. Not only will the town and campus that you choose have some affect on your college success, it will also have a huge impact on your exposure to the American culture.
As a rule of thumb, the larger the college campus the more vibrant and active the surrounding town tends to be.
Quality #1: Convenience
Even if you intend on having a car or another form of reliable transportation, convenience is key in a college town. The last thing you will want to do is leave the campus bookstore and have to travel miles to get grab coffee or pick up some additional school supplies.
Here’s a list of my college town must-haves in no particular order:
- Coffee & Bagel Shops
- 24-hour Convenience Stores
- Outdoor Parks and Bike Paths
- Movie Theaters, Bowling Alleys and Karaoke Bars
When scoping out prospect towns be sure to keep a keen eye out for businesses that stay open late and are within a short walking distance from campus. Keep in mind that the less time you have to spend focused on traveling for everyday necessities, the more time you will have to study, unwind and really enjoy your college experience!
Quality #2/3: Community and Culture
A strong sense of community is extremely important in a college town. The more active and involved the area surrounding your college campus is, the more likely you are to become involved, develop deeper friendships, and really broaden your experiences as an international student. There are countless ways to get a feel for a town’s culture, but keeping an eye out for active group pages on Facebook (such as no-commitment kickball leagues or weekly pickup basketball games) and fliers for fun events around town are a great place to start.
From here, take it a step further. Find a town with monthly art walks, outdoor music venues, weekly bake sales, or fresh produce markets.The more advertisements you see for community events, or the more you see your school mascot around town, the better. If you aren’t able to find much online about the town of your choice, the staff of your potential college or university can be great assets, too. Never be afraid to ask your international counselors about the their feelings of the culture, shopping and entertainment options surrounding campus. Remember that they already live there, and odds are they will have a great insight!
Take your time selecting your perfect college, but don’t forget to also choose the town! After all, college memories aren’t just created in dorm rooms and lecture halls.