How to find and participate in student life outside your college classroom.

Conventional wisdom states that college student life means drinking beer and having fun. But all too often, especially for the international student, life outside an American classroom is life inside the library. You shouldn’t study for hours each and every night, even if you want to.

Take a break on occasion. Not everything you learn will come from a book, and part of attending a US university is experiencing college student life away from the classroom. Make sure the university you choose has enough options for you. But all the opportunities in the world won’t help if you can’t get to them. Also make sure you have transportation options for on- and off-campus events at your US college.

College Student Life After Classes

Uncover the hot spots around campus. Do students gather at the union? Do they play Frisbee on the commons, or lounge on the quad? Many universities offer their own evening activities, such as guest speakers or free films. You can also check if the drama department presents plays on-campus, or if the music department holds concerts. (You may even want to participate in one of these activities!)

Find out what types of activities and clubs are on-campus and what student life is like for college students off-campus. For example:

  • Do students crowd the bars and go to off-campus parties?
  • Are area coffee shops filled to the brim?
  • Does the theater play popular movies?

Location Affects College Student Life

College student life can vary significantly based on the US university you choose. The location of the college plays an important role. A college in a small community probably won’t offer as many off-campus alternatives. However, a university in the middle of a large city will offer a nearly endless number of options off-campus.

Transportation at US Colleges

Even if you can walk to your classes, exploring the community by foot might be impractical. What types of transportation are available at your school? Even if you attend a rural college, a bus or train might provide service to a nearby city. If public transportation isn’t available, you might consider getting a US driver’s license and bringing a vehicle to college. Though before you fill up the tank, make sure this is even an option — not all colleges allow students to keep cars on campus. Even upperclassmen who have cars may have to park far away if they live in the college dorms.

Parking might be a concern even if you live off-campus. Spots could be limited, and you might need a parking pass.

Bicycles on College Campuses

A bicycle can be a quick and affordable college strategy. Just be sure to buy a strong lock to secure your bike. Your residence hall might even store the bike during winter. However, many US cities don’t have bike lanes, and drivers aren’t always kind to bicyclists on the road. If you ride your bike off-campus, be observant and try to avoid the busiest streets. Whether you’re walking or biking, make sure the campus is safe and well-lit at night. Some US colleges offer their own shuttle service. You can sometimes arrange for a school-sponsored service to pick you up and drop you off at your destination late at night.

You are attending a US college to learn, but you must remain sane and take time to unwind. When you are deciding where to attend college, be sure the options for student life on- and off-campus match your interests.

After all, the social skills you learn in college are just as important as any history class or chemistry lab.