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Rural vs. Urban Campuses

Rural Campus Life

The birds are chirping, the grass is turning green and a slight breeze is blowing. The smell of spring is in the air. Green trees and grass cover the landscape. The bell tower tolls to signal the arrival of the afternoon. Students are seen walking to class, sitting under trees reading books or enjoying time together for an athletic practice. This is pretty typical of life on a rural college campus in America.

Rural campus life is free from big city distractions such as air pollution, noisy traffic, and tall buildings. On a rural campus, you have the opportunity to get in touch with nature. Outdoor activities are abundant. Biking, hiking, jogging, bird watching, or simply studying under a tree are relaxing opportunities for students who attend rurally located colleges.

The ability to communicate directly with faculty, staff, administrators and alumni is an additional benefit of a small rural campus. Actually, it is a must. Students won't see their professors only in class; professors will interact with students as advisers to their housing units, advisers to campus clubs, participating in intramural athletic programs, attending theatre productions, and much more. Being just a number is impossible on a small rural campus. The professors will know each student by name and, better yet, will know the students' strengths and weaknesses.

Comfortable and safe are often words that describe the environment of being in a small rural college community. The size of a campus typically ties into safety and security issues. On a small campus, interaction with other students, faculty, and townspeople is a must. The ability to spot people who aren't familiar to you is simple and knowing that definitely helps with comfort level. International students make friends with other international students very quickly and the American students are very welcoming as well.

Availability of specialty stores in small college towns will most likely be limited. Planning ahead will help alleviate this problem. Most small colleges will provide a service to international students for transportation to shop in neighboring cities. College bookstores and town general stores will supply students with basic necessities; however, specific items will require traveling to the larger cities or purchasing items via the internet.

Campus based activities are an enormous part of life on small rural college campuses. Students are engaged inside and outside of the classroom. It is not unusual to find a group of students gathered around watching the latest reality based TV show, studying in groups for tests, or hanging out at the recreation center. Campus clubs are also very common and range from community service oriented, academic related or sports affiliated. Clubs are a wonderful way to meet people, travel, and learn about different subjects. Varsity athletics are another avenue in which international students can get involved. Team sports and other athletic opportunities are abundant on small campuses.

On the majority of smaller campuses, a specific person is assigned to work with international students in their transition to America. This person should be identified and be the main point of contact on the campus. International Student Coordinators provide services such as: orientation to campus, teaching English as a Second Language, providing transportation to and from airport/train station/bus stations, and providing the opportunity for shopping and social interaction.

Whether the choice is a small rural campus or a larger urban campus, the most important part is that it is the right choice for you. Words and pictures can only partially tell the story of any college campus. Contacting and connecting with an actual person on any campus is extremely helpful. If opportunity presents itself, an in-person campus visit is helpful.

If you have made the decision to attend a college in America, good luck with the process of searching for the right type of campus whether rural or urban.

Urban Campus Life

Once you have decided to study in the United States of America, you are faced with a bewildering number of choices—after all, there are more than 3600 institutions of higher education in the country. One of the most important of those choices is whether you want to study in an urban area, in a small town, or at a university in a rural area. It is a very important decision because in many ways it will shape your entire experience.

It is also important to decide which part of the United States you want to go to for your university education. There are many differences among lifestyles, even in large cities, in the Northeast, South, Midwest, Rocky Mountains and West. The pace of life is very different in New York than it is in, for example, New Orleans. In making your decision about where to study it is important to learn about these differences and consider where you are most likely to feel comfortable.

Life in urban universities in the United States, or any other country for that matter, is very much influenced by the city where the university is located—the size of the city, the cultural life, and the geography. Nevertheless, we can talk of some common characteristics of life in urban universities.

Urban universities, unlike those in small towns and rural areas, are not the focal point of local life. Students have a much wider range of choice when it comes to entertainment, restaurants, food markets, living arrangements and the other elements of daily life in cities than in small towns and rural areas. This is especially true of the smaller urban institutions in larger cities, where student life is a combination of on campus activities and life in the city itself. In smaller cities (such as university towns like Ann Arbor, Michigan or Fort Collins, Colorado), the university may dominate the life of the city because students represent as much as 20-30% of the entire population. This is not the case in large cities, although Boston is a bit of an exception to this rule because there are so many colleges and universities there and students represent nearly 10% of the local population in the area.

Students in urban universities frequently do not live in university residence halls during their entire stay. They may do so for only one or two years and then find that they are more comfortable (and that it is more economical) to join together with friends to rent an apartment or a house.

Entertainment is more varied for students at large urban universities than those in small rural areas. Many cities have a very lively student life with an amazing array of clubs playing music from all over the world and offering students from other countries a chance to feel at home while in the US. This is, of course, in addition to all the activities and entertainment options available at the university itself.

Urban university life, therefore, can be very exciting and can offer you the chance to experience student life in special ways. However, fending for yourself (even with a group of friends) in an apartment or rented house, going dancing or to listen to music at clubs, and taking advantage of the other opportunities offered by city life can distract you from your studies. As a result, while making your decision about where to study, you also need to assess yourself and your ability to ignore the distractions when you need to focus on your studies.

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