As a guy who’s attended three different universities and graduated this past spring with his Master’s, I happened to get my first full-time gig in a big college town. After nine months on the job, I’ve realized that life has completely changed. It’s one thing to attend a college in a college town. It’s another to live and work in one as a recently graduated professional.
After consulting with a bunch of my buddies who live all over the country and some colleagues, I sat around at happy hour figuring out what life is like being a postgrad living in a college town:
The Job and Career factor
Personally, I work in the field of Student Affairs at the university. Being around students all day has its perks and is quite rewarding. But, it often makes me want to rip the hair out of my head and scream at the top of my lungs. Thus, I’m fully immersed in the lifestyle. This keeps me young but forces an invisible barrier between myself and students. I have to portray to them that I’m an upstanding quality individual who can be seen as not only their supervisor but as a mentor.
But here is the reality. Not that long ago, I’ve lived exactly how they’ve lived: I was in a fraternity. I went to Panama City Beach and Las Vegas for spring break. I’ve been detained by border patrol. For those who don’t work for the university, it may be an easier separation as they’re not immersed in the town itself. And, I’m sure those who live in bigger college towns (e.g. Madison, Wisconsin and Austin Texas) would have an easier chance staying away from the student lifestyle if that’s what they wanted. With me and my younger colleagues, it’s always a game of cat and mouse since we’re forced to avoid our staff beyond the walls of our building.
While it may have been cool to live at the gated complexes with day ragers, clubhouses with pools, and shuttle service to campus, there’s nothing sweeter than going to bed in your own place with peace and quiet after a long day of work. I live in the downtown area and its close enough where I can walk to all the bars and work. Yet, I’m far enough away from the centralized areas of students where they rent out. Finding the balance was essential to my “close enough to everything but far enough away from the craziness” attitude.
Buy some cool stuff for your place and make it look legit. The ripped off cases of Natty Light may fly in college but it doesn’t in the postgrad world.
Campus Sports and Events
It’s pretty simple. For those who are alumni of the university and currently living in that town, you care a lot less about homecoming. You’re equally as excited for tailgating and you care a lot more of the outcome your team has on the field/court. For those who aren’t alumni and living in that university town, you don’t care about homecoming (or any non-alcohol related campus event). You’re excited about tailgating. And maybe you’ll take a general interest of the team.
As I mentioned before, I have numerous students who work for me. I would instantly be recognized if I show up at penny pitcher or $1 quadruple wells night at the local establishments. Thus, I tend to stay away from the true campus hot spots. Besides that, when you’re at the bars, it’s pretty easy to figure out who’s who. Initially, I didn’t have any desire to talk to undergrads when courting a female. But now that I’m taken and have little desire to converse in general.
You can easily tell college girls apart from the pack by their scantily clad outfits and hordes of eight or more of them at a time. But for the most part, it all depends on what bar you go to. I find it easier to just sit around and chat rather than play bump ‘n grind with a girl you think may have looked at you from across the room (or do the whole Night at the Roxbury thing, if you’re shy). Overall, meeting new people isn't too hard as a post-grad in a college town since there are many other 20-somethings who have also ventured into the postgrad world.
We all remember that line from Adam Sandler in Big Daddy “At your age I could eat anything. Wouldn’t gain an ounce. Now, I have a chocolate shake, my ass jiggles for a week”. Yeah, that happens. Now that I’m not an undergrad, I can’t pound a case in a weekend and keep the shape that I want. Coming to manage your own health comes into play. Staying active by diversifying workouts and watching what you eat makes all the difference. Most college towns usually have great facilities for keeping in shape, especially if you're affiliated with the university, along with opportunities to play sports.
Damn it feels good to have money that I can spend on anything I want. Those $50 bar tabs are a lot easier to swallow.
Pic of Burlington, Vermont via Wikipedia