Finding the Pioneer Spirit in the Heartland of America
The truth is that the United States is larger than you think. The land area represented by the United States is ranked third in the world at approximately 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million kilometers). The U.S.A. is composed of 48 mainland states plus Hawaii, Alaska and Washington, D.C. Travelling from the West Coast to the East Coast it takes about six hours by plane, spanning four different time zones. Although the coasts with the populous states of New York and California are popular destinations, the Midwest and other inland areas are also excellent choices for students wanting to study abroad. If you visit the heartland of the United States, you quickly realize that well-known places such as New York and Los Angeles represent only a small part of the country overall. Although some might say, “Rural America is boring”, the truth is that because it can be easier to make friends in more relaxed, rural settings, there is no time to be bored. Surrounded by a magnificent natural environment, many students who choose to study in rural America feel a refreshing kindness and honesty which helps them gain a true experience of American life.
Enjoying ‘Traditional American Life’ in a Natural Environment
One of the best parts of studying in the United States is the opportunity to experience the outdoors. In the Midwest and away from the coasts generally, one can feel the vastness of the United States unlike any large coastal city. With blue skies and prairie wilderness, unending highways, vast corn fields and farms, as far as the eye can see, one can feel a part of America and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the scale of the country. In short, students who learn English in rural America have a unique opportunity to experience American life. Travelling across the terrain of the United States from East to West, one will pass through the Coastal Plains, over the Appalachian Mountains, to the Great Lakes Region, the Midwestern prairies, the Desert Plateau and over the Rocky Mountains to the Plains and finally the Pacific Ocean. Moving from state to state, one can easily experience the distinct culture and atmosphere of each place and make friends with those who live there. In rural areas of the United States, students will find cities large and small and little-known places attractive in many ways. The reality is there are many prestigious schools in rural areas that offer excellent English education and are eager to welcome students from abroad.
Enjoying College Life on a Large University Campus
Compared to colleges and universities in an urban setting, schools in more rural areas generally speaking tend to be larger. Whereas urban schools might have campuses between 100-200 acres, rural schools can have campuses five to ten times as large. In contrast to the urban campus lined with modern buildings, college campuses in rural areas tend to have a more natural environment to offer. The contrast on a college campus of the green grass and the brick buildings is truly beautiful. On such campuses, it is not uncommon to even see rabbits and squirrels on occasion. With large academic buildings and dorms, tens of thousands of students can learn in an environment that is more relaxed than its urban counterpart. With the wide open spaces available, such schools can easily maintain large sports stadiums big enough to hold thousands of fans, large libraries and well-equipped computer facilities. On sunny days, you might even find teachers holding classes outdoors or students studying or taking a nap on the grass during a break under a sunny, blue sky. As you can imagine, it is a great way to enjoy American college life.
Simple and Friendly Encounters With People
In major urban centers around the world such as New York City, where personal space is limited, there is sometimes a tendency to keep a distance from other people and not associate with them. For students coming from abroad, such an attitude seems contrary to their original motivation for studying abroad. Conversely, in small town America, one may feel it easier to connect and make friends with those around them who treat them with kindness. This is the original American spirit which one may find more easily in small towns. Having simple and friendly encounters with people not only helps students improve their English, but also is extremely important in understanding American culture and having a fulfilling experience overall. When living abroad, even a stranger saying, “Hello”, can be unexpectedly helpful and encouraging. Studying abroad is not simply about learning another language, it is also an important time to learn about other countries and interact with students from abroad who have come to do the same. In short, studying abroad is a unique opportunity to see with new eyes, one’s own country and culture. Living and learning in the heartland of America is a great opportunity to have an unforgettable experience.
Maintaining a Comfortable Living Environment and a Lower Cost of Living
Another attractive point about living in the Midwest and inland areas of the United States is the lower cost of living. In larger, more well-known metropolitan cities, the cost of renting an apartment can be as high as US$1,000 or more. However, in Midwestern states, rent can be half as much for two or three times the space. When going out to eat in rural areas, meals are cheaper as well as food and everyday necessities one would buy at the local supermarket. Living in the city can be comfortable if a student doesn’t need to worry about funding, but having to save all one’s money to pay the rent can lead to a less enjoyable experience for students. It is probably not ideal to choose a study abroad destination based only on the cost of living, but since maintaining a comfortable living environment has an important effect on what you learn, it’s important to consider the costs associated with living in various areas of the United States.
- Great Plains
- Kansas State University
- Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO)
- TLC - Kirksville, Truman State University