Your College Town: 13 Ways to Get the Most from It
Life in a college town can be challenging until you get a feel for it. You may not be used to things like seasonal traffic flow, business hours, and other unforeseen surprises unique to the community. Things you’ve never had to experience anywhere else. In the following article, we’re going to provide some insight on how you, as a student, can make the most of it, especially if you’re not used to it. Let’s get started!
Before getting into the tips, let’s first examine each of the common roadblocks to getting the most from your college community. These are the items that are going to hold you back more than anything else.
- You’re going from a community with lots to do with one that has limited options. Believe it or not, not every college community is in a large metropolis.
- You’re going from a small town to a big one. If you’ve ever had problems with traffic and directions and diversity, well, you’ll need to broaden your horizons rather quickly.
- You don’t have access to public transit and have no automobile. Conversely, you do have public transit and have either never used it or want to use it instead of driving your car. That puts you in a position where you have to do something about your ride while school is in session.
- You don’t politically or philosophically align with the type of community you’re moving to. Going from a hometown in the North to a college in the South or vice versa is one example.
Now that you know what to watch out for, let’s get into the tips themselves. Pay attention to each of these and begin implementation as soon as possible.
1. Study the Map
Studying a road map is a lost art, but it really shouldn’t be. That’s especially true when you are moving to a new city for the first time, alone, and need to find your way. Break one out, whether it’s print or online. Do your best to learn the major thoroughfares as well as some of the larger side-streets. But don’t fret if you’re still having trouble. Something else you might decide to do…
2. Talk to Your Streets Department
The Streets or Engineering Department of the college town you’re moving to can be an invaluable source of information. That’s because they keep an inventory of the number of streets in the city and can give you some intimate first-hand information about where most of the major businesses are and how to get around in the city. Go to the city website for the area and find a generic number to one of these Departments. Explain to them who you are and what you’re hoping to learn, and they’ll be more than happy to help you out.
3. Learn Your Favorite Locations
When you become a true student of your own behaviors, you’ll realize that you get into a series of routines and tend to repeat the foods you eat, drinks you sip, and places you visit. It’s also likely you only have a handful of shops that might cater to your hobbies or interests. Learn where all these locations are and study the easiest paths to them. Use the GPS on your phone when traveling to and from until you’re really comfortable getting around. Repetition will take care of the rest.
4. Familiarize Yourself with All Public Transportation Options
There’s a growing number of people in younger generations who are forgoing their access to private transportation in favor of public. While it can still cost money to be chauffered around the city, it’s likely not as much as a monthly car payment and the installments on your auto insurance policy. Learn which options your city has for public transit. And when riding on these conveyances, make sure you have a fully-charged phone and some form of defense such as pepper spray or stun gun. Unfortunately, public transit can attract crime in certain areas. And really, it’s just always a good idea to be prepared.
5. Note Each Grocery Store
Grocery stores are something you want to frequent as a college student who has to watch his or her budget. And yes, we mean plural. You can save a lot of money by paying close attention to circulars and piecemealing how you buy your groceries. Try to capitalize on weekly sales and member rewards. Eat most of your meals in, but find you a few affordable restaurant locations as well so you can keep from getting burned-out by constantly eating in.
6. Learn Who Your City and State Representatives Are
Your city will operate either on a mayoral form of government — where the mayor makes all the major decisions — or a city administrator form of government, where the administrator handles day-to-day operations, the mayor is ceremonial, and a town council makes the ultimate hiring and firing decisions. Additionally, you will have a House and a Senate that handles matters at the state level. Within each of these chambers, there will be representatives that represent your city. Know who they are. Visit their websites to see what they’ve done, what they’re working on, etc. Become an informed citizen of your college town!
7. Study the Demographics
Every 10 years, the federal government will undergo a United States Census. That US Census data reveals key components of what makes your city your city. This includes ethnic and financial demographics as well as other meaningful data. Data is also updated more frequently, though less accurately, on the US Census website. Go do some searches for your college town and play around with the information to see what you can learn about the layout.
8. Read the Local News Sources
Local newspapers and news websites are your fastest ticket to understanding the complexities going on inside your college town every single day. Many of these sources won’t charge for their news, or at least won’t charge students. Even if they do, it can be worth purchasing a subscription or going to the library on your campus or in your city to read the most currently available edition. Social media will also link you up with the latest news items and planned events of note. Get as involved as you can. You might even consider latching onto a residents’ forum on Facebook, though, word of warning, they can attract some incredibly negative people.
9. Go to a Town Council Meeting
The best thing you can do for accelerating your understanding of issues within your community is to attend a town council meeting. While here, you’ll see the agenda items, how each council member votes on those items and what their motivations are, and what concerned citizens are saying. You’ll also get to see how your government treats citizens who speak up. All of this is valuable information to have. Town council meetings can also get you on the radar of some very important people within your college town.
10. Get Involved with a Volunteer Organization
All it really takes is one volunteer organization. Choose a busy one or one that matters a lot to you. See what they have going online. Reach out to the decision-makers. See how you can get involved. Then, show up whenever you can and get busy. Be dependable! This is still the most valuable form of networking you can engage in if your goal is to find a job or even start a business within your college town. And even if you plan to leave at some point, you can make valuable connections for wherever you end up.
11. Befriend the Local Police
This goes for campus and city. We know it’s cliched, but cops really do like donuts. You might consider forming a partnership with a student organization where you send goodies to the police every week or month. Let them know who you are, what your cause is, that you appreciate them, and you’ll be surprised at how much more quickly you can get things done when you need any assistance that might involve them. Of course, the police are the police, and they’ll be there for you no matter what. But it’s always good to get involved.
12. Consider Staying Over for the Holidays
You may not have as much time to get involved with your community during the school semester. So stick around during the summer or over the holiday break, and see what you can get involved with. You may not want to do it every time you get a break, but it can make a world of difference to how you enjoy your college town.
13. Get a Part-Time Job in the Community
Getting a part-time job where you live during college can help you make new friends and build a deeper sense of belonging within your community. Look for places that are fun, but don’t cut off all possibilities. Find where you can be of use, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re there first for an education. Make sure they can work with your hours.
Your College Town Can Be the Key to Your Future
Many graduates stay in or around their college town after their four, seven, or even 12 years are up. Might as well make the most of it! If you’ve been intimidated by living on your own going into freshman year, follow the tips presented here and make your college town home!
[Featured Image by Wikimedia Commons]