I started college at 18 and continued until I was 27-earning doctoral degree in human development and family studies. After graduation, I did a one year post-doctoral research internship at a major university and then became a professor at mid-sized Midwestern school. I’ve been here three years now. This means that, for the last 13 years, I have lived in a college town.
Sometimes college towns get a bad rap. Yes, there are usually some rental homes that college students have trashed and landlords have not bothered to up-keep. College students love to drink beer sitting out on their front porches while relaxing on eye-sore couches and recliners. On any Friday night around 2 a.m., you can drive around town and see any number of college co-eds stumbling home from the bar.
Yet, I see living close to a college as one of the major advantages of being a college professor. Someday I may retire, but even at that point, I will still choose to living in a college town. Here’s why:
1. Performances. Being around a college brings you many opportunities to see concerts and plays you might not otherwise have the chance to attend. Colleges may have theater and music majors who often present their talents at no or low-cost. In addition, colleges (particularly larger ones) often bring in concerts and performances that would not otherwise visit the area.
2. Sports. I love sports but have become particularly disgruntled with professional athletes. It’s easy to get caught up in rooting on your local college team, even if it’s not a major sports school that is in contention for a national title. A smaller school’s teams may especially appreciate your support and may enjoy talking to your child and signing autographs for him/her after the game. And these college games will undoubtedly be cheaper than going to a pro event. You can probably even afford season tickets.
3. Shops and restaurants. Most colleges are surrounded by what might be called “Campus Town” or “College Hill,” a few blocks (at least) of shops and restaurants that are typically frequented by students, faculty, and staff. Many of these shops tend to feature unique or funky clothing and gifts. There are also usually some mom-and-pop type cafes and restaurants. These areas often offer ethnic food (Thai, Indian, etc.) that would otherwise not be offered in the area.
4. Energy. College students bring with them a sense of energy. I know that some are slackers, many are just plain lazy, and plenty are just around to see how long they can get drunk off of Mom and Dad’s dollar. But I do think that’s the minority. Most college students are excited to be where they are in life. They are enthusiastic about their futures, even if they’re unsure about their plans. College students bring a sense of positivity and possibility to town.
5. Volunteerism. College students are often looking for volunteer opportunities. Sometimes they want the learning experience and sometimes they just want something to put on their resume. But, nonetheless, if you run an organization in a college town, you can use this to your advantage. If you run the local senior center, put a sign up on campus looking for volunteers to help with your Christmas party. If you are a member of a mothers of preschool children group, recruit some college kids to watch your children while you meet.
6. Interns. Many majors require or advise that students complete internships. Want to mentor a young person while getting some free or cheap help with your business? Check into the possibilities. If you own a restaurant, perhaps you can contact a professor in the interior design major about finding an intern to help you with your remodel. If you work for a marketing firm, there may be a marketing major out there seeking experience who would bring new energy and excitement to your workplace. And, you can test out potential employees with no commitment-hire the ones you like!
Although living in a college town many bring some minor annoyances, the overall atmosphere and plentiful opportunities are exciting to anyone who seeks to optimize their personal and cultural development-whether they are associated with the university or not!