published Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

My Life: College towns are cool places to visit

Corin Harpe

This summer, I have had more free time than usual.

Aside from my regular job and studying for the Praxis (required exam for my master’s in education), it has been relatively calm. As much as I enjoy staying busy, pursuing goals and getting things done, I love it when I have time off. It is a break from the constant pressure of deadlines and managing time. More important, it is a chance for exploration.

Instead of going to the beach or somewhere people would consider more exciting, I wanted to explore college towns.

My main reason for visiting Knoxville was to see a friend, but I was soon interested in exploring UT-Knoxville’s campus, football stadium, bookstores and popular restaurants.

Most people would find this boring. During high school, I heard colleges are essentially the same; they all have buildings made of red brick, the same majors, clubs, activities and enormous lecture-hall classes. That is one reason I chose to attend a small, private, liberal arts college.

The more I walked around UT-Knoxville, the more this impression changed. I was able to experience a college without having to make a college decision. I was able to enjoy the visit. I began to recognize the uniqueness of the university and city.

Different from my own college experience, the city and school contribute to one another. Knoxville is student-friendly. Restaurants and stores cater to students. There is a strong sense of safety.

I was impressed by the openness and activity. Students were walking around bar-hopping and playing instruments outside. A cheerleading squad was practicing in the middle of the strip. Everything was relaxed and fun. The abundance of school spirit was impressive. Everywhere we went, we saw Tennessee orange. We went to Neyland Stadium, which was awesome, even empty.

Since I had such a good experience at UT, I decided to visit Auburn. The majority of my aunts and uncles went to school there, so I felt it a serious omission to not have visited the university.

We took the scenic route, going through Alabama rather than dealing with Atlanta. It was beautiful and nice until, about two hours into the journey, I found myself on a never-ending, two-lane road.

Eventually we made it, and I found Auburn to be very unique. In contrast to Knoxville, I love the peace and quiet of the town. The university has the same feeling as the small, liberal arts university I attended. The town is dedicated to the university. In contrast to Knoxville, I love how university buildings are grouped together. I toured Jordan-Hare Stadium, which somehow is more awe-inspiring empty than when filled.

The main reason I enjoy college towns is my love of education. As a future teacher, I can’t help but be joyful in anticipating the energy of these cities when the school year begins.

The choice to attend college defines one’s future. I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had not attended the University of the South. Who would my friends be? Would I have majored in something different? Where would I live? What would I be doing with my life now?

These towns have one thing in common: They are hubs of education where students can apply what they have learned to a field in which they are interested. Students also frequently meet people they will consider their closest friends. College towns are not only fun and unique; they renew my love for learning and teaching.

Contact Corin Harpe at corinharpe@gmail.com.

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