Whether you choose to attend an urban university, such as NYU or UCLA, or wish to escape to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, where you live will have a huge impact on your college experience. All college life can feel repetitive, so students can easily fall into a routine. But, you must take full advantage of your college experience. Break out of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in the culture of your university’s town. Go out and explore! You will find something new and exciting about your surroundings and yourself.
Here are 6 tips to get you up and moving.
1. Go to Local Restaurants
Most of the time, the first step into a city’s culture is through its cuisine. Restaurants are informative cultural hubs, and a much-needed escape from the dining halls. Try not to attend the chains. A late-night McDonalds run is okay, but you could do that anywhere! It’s best to take time to enjoy local food and drink. It helps your college town’s economy, and local food is almost always fresher and healthier.
2. Look at Campus Bulletin Boards
Almost every campus building has them. Most of the the time, bulletin boards will only consist of political notes, or the occasional quidditch club flyer. However, local businesses will occasionally use them to advertise, as well.
Check out local band listings and open mic nights. Most music venues that advertise on campus bulletins aren’t large enough to require a ticket. The most you would have to pay is a five-dollar cover at the door. Bars and restaurant music venues are places where students and locals can converse and mingle Get to know some of the locals. They will be able to show you around town better than any of the student guides.
3. Explore Nature
A fantastic getaway from your daily routine is a hike with your friends. This is a healthy alternative to an afternoon on the couch, or an innovative way to exercise if you have exhausted the gym. Every area of the country has a unique and beautiful landscape. If you are attending school somewhere far from home, make sure to explore the outdoor areas around you. Chances are, they are vastly different than what you’re used to.
Owning, or borrowing, a bike is a great way to explore beyond campus. Many areas have bike paths that many locals know about, but are often foreign to students. Walking only allows you to cover so much ground while a car limits you to paved roads. A bike, however, gives you an efficient way to travel far beyond university buildings, in a timely manner.
4. Meet/Befriend Locals
One of the best parts about college is the friends you meet. You get to spend time and converse with people from completely different geographical areas and cultural backgrounds. It only seems natural that you should get to know the locals, as well. They will know the hidden gems of the town, where you can eat, drink, and relax. But, it is important to tread lightly. Especially in small college towns, the locals feel as if everything they do is infiltrated by students. So, if you are lucky enough to be let in on a secret, be respectful. Don’t tell all of your friends, and don’t litter, or host parties there.
College tours only give you so much information, and the majority of your friends will probably fall victim to the daily routine. Befriending the locals allows you to feel as if you don’t just attend a school, but are a member of the community, as well.
5. Be Lost
This piece of advice should be taken with a grain of salt. Obviously, it isn’t good to be lost anywhere where you are susceptible to danger, but I’m speaking more to the metaphorical “lost.” This means keeping an open mind to fun and rewarding opportunities. It means taking a local’s advice and traveling with friends to the farmers market on Saturday morning. Turn off your GPS and put your planner down. You can only fully explore a new area, or become accustomed to a different culture, if you take time to fully submerge yourself in it.
6. Get Out
College fosters independence. One of the best things about being independent and free is the ability to travel when you please. While it is beneficial and easy to fall in love with your new school or town, there is always a need for travel, even if it is just the next town over. College students often fall into a routine and feel obligated to stay in one place. It is imperative though for college students to explore and experience new places, people and ideas, all the time.
Before you know it, your time at college will be up. Don’t limit your explorations to campus and waste an opportunity to live in your city or town. College has so much more to offer than classes and a university center. Ask questions, be unpredictable, and keep your life exciting and new.