What's your idea of a dream vacation? Relaxing at a secluded beach resort? Experiencing the "up all night" spirit of a big city? Maybe a challenging backpacking adventure? Well, while college isn't exactly a vacation, it will be a change from the routine of home. When you kiss your high school and hometown goodbye, what kind of place do you picture yourself going to?
Every campus is a world unto itself, but every campus is also part of a larger community. Your college experience will be different depending on what that community has to offer. So as you make your plans for post-high school life, think through your geographic options. These students will help you figure out what different places are really like.
The urban scene
Every day, millions of people work and play in Houston, Texas, one of the nation's biggest metropolitan centers. For Chihiro Takahashi, a junior at Houston Baptist University, the hustle and bustle is nothing new. As a native of Kyoto (one of Japan's largest cities), Chihiro is accustomed to the pace of urban life. Even though Houston is thousands of miles from Kyoto, Chihiro considers it her "second hometown."
"You can find anything in this town," Chihiro says. "It's so diverse. You're in Texas, but you can eat authentic Middle Eastern food. It's great."
While HBU is located in southwestern Houston (not downtown), big-city conveniences are but a step away from the campus. As Chihiro points out, "We have pretty much everything we need right here." Plus, with public transportation at their fingertips, HBU students "don't really have to have a car."
Chihiro feels that a bicycle is sufficient for navigating the area around campus, but she admits that the Houston weather can cause problems. "Biking is hard here," she says. "It's so hot! It always summer or spring."
One way or another, most HBU students take advantage of the opportunities around them. Chihiro notes that student ministries are a big part of life for herself and her fellow HBU Huskies. "We have very strong community service projects," she says. Early in the school year, most students select a local organization and commit a portion of their time to the group. Chihiro, who is involved in Student Ministries, spends almost every Saturday at a center for mentally challenged people. "We go out as a group and donate our time. Most students get involved in ministry of some kind."
Besides her weekly commitment, Chihiro says the city offers an unlimited array of service options. "Sometimes we'll go to Galveston and clean the beach or go downtown to a homeless shelter and play with the kids there," she says.
Besides offering a variety of service opportunities, Houston has many venues for cultural enrichment. In addition to ethnic restaurants and grocery stores, Houston is home to several museums and professional sports teams. Some sections of the city don't look "Texan" at all, Chihiro says. "There's a large Chinese community and Vietnamese community in town, so if you go there you feel like you're a world away."
And of course, there's the HBU community. Despite the bustle around them, Chihiro says students have a strong sense of kinship. When she first came to Houston three years ago, Chihiro didn't know anyone. Now the city and the campus feel like home. "I've met so many different people here," she says. As students, "We feel very close."
Carrie Matthews, a senior at Bryan College, also feels close to her fellow students. She says Bryan, in the small town of Dayton, Tennessee, is a place where everybody knows your name. "We're like a big family here," she says. "We can even walk up to the president, Dr. Brown, and he'll know our names."
Carrie, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, says the move to a rural environment was "a good adjustment." The size of the school and the surrounding community were "just what I was looking for. I really wanted that family feel."