• Things I Wish I Knew

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Before Attending Ohio University


1.) The unrivaled beauty of the campus

Ask anyone who’s had the privilege of attending or exploring Ohio University‘ scenic Athens campus in autumn when classes resume, and just wait for the smile to creep across their face. As a prospective student on a routine college tour, I was led across the tree lined central green that’s often filled with jugglers, lounging scholars, and organizations that always have room for another member. In short it’s the quintessential college visage portrayed in books and on the silver screen. This locale among others like the tranquil Emeriti Park is what many come to associate with the school grounds. However, you have to remember that the university is actually in the middle of Athens, a gemstone of an Appalachian city if there ever was one.

My fondest memories are of places discovered off the beaten path, like hiking with friends at nearby state park Stroud’s Run or venturing uptown to the small businesses of Court Street. There’s something beautiful or exciting to find down every twisting, rustic road.

2.) A community of rock ‘n’ rollers

Though I didn’t choose to pursue a degree in music, I had every intention of starting a band as an undergraduate. Athens has a long, music-centric history with its various performance spaces mostly dive bars frequented by students that host local and touring talent year after year. During my first year, a friend and I posted fliers all over the campus in search of a bassist. So what spot yielded the most returned calls?

That would be Donkey Coffee, the resident hot spot for creative types and anyone who knows anything about quality (albeit expensive) coffee. Of course it’s a challenge finding a place to practice loudly when you’re sharing a dorm room that wouldn’t give a Cracker Jack box a run for its money. Some of the places we ended up making use of include Glidden Hall, otherwise known as the Music Building, and the basement of a nearby dorm.

It’s important to note that Athens isn’t just home to professors and their pupils. It has a talented crowd of artists and musicians who support creative endeavors there’s always a niche group of people who will be interested in what you’re doing.

3.) Professors transcend the classroom

When you’re a student of Ohio University, you don’t feel as though you have a ”school life” and a ”personal life” with distinct boundaries. One of the school’s greatest attributes is how these two things blend thanks to the campus’ community feel. It’s not a rarity to see professors out and about at the same bars, restaurants, and stores you frequent. In that way, they become friends just as much as mentors.

During the second half of my scholarly career, I was fortunate enough to become very close with a writing instructor to whom I could turn to for advice, musings or even just a terrible joke. During hard times, he would meet with me in the privacy of his Ellis Hall office. On the night before graduation, he took me to my favorite bar to share a celebratory scotch. He even came to see my band a few times.

It was such a profound, humbling thing to see how invested he was in my life. Our friendship enhanced my classroom experience. If you’re wondering, it’s true: we still keep in touch to this day.

4.) Wintertime is not a fun time

I’ve been singing Ohio University’s praises so far, but I’ve got a serious bone to pick with the treacherous winter that renders the campus a ghost town every winter. Autumn and spring prove gorgeous seasons that bring a little breeze with them perfect for afternoon strolls to class or the recreational center.

Before my freshmen year, my parents encouraged (begged might be a better word) me to pack a durable pair of boots. I declined, and regret ensued. All of those long, stretching hills that lead to lecture and residence halls become treacherous slopes of misery when Jack Frost comes to town. Add an overflowing backpack to the mix and you’ve got the makings of a disaster.

Future students take note: you’ll want a lined coat, a pair of boots with good traction, and a hard wearing pair of wool gloves to make it through winter here. On the plus side, most of the residence halls keep the heat on high so there’s always a cozy corner to retreat into.

5.) We’re not just known for our party antics

Thanks to the media, there’s really no escaping the party obsessed stigma that’s associated with the students of Ohio University. Athens’ many bars and annual festivals are proof that kids know how to have a good time, and while I don’t shy away from those things, I wish I’d known how easy it actually is to distance yourself from those activities if you choose to.

Overall, it’s only a small portion of what the school has to offer a prospective student. With more than 16,000 students with different backgrounds and interests, I can speak from experience that there’s an organization, sport, or a circle of friends centered around anything you can possibly imagine.

Everyone at Ohio University is a vagabond in some sense, all just looking to expand their mind and find out who you are. Don’t think by any means that you have to be an expert at the keg stand to fit in here. That was something I worried over endlessly, but I came to find that this school actually lets and encourages you to be whoever you are.

Ryan James is a ’13 alumnus of Ohio University’s College of Arts & Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in writing and media. He currently works as a copywriter for a Fortune 500 e-commerce corporation based in Columbus, OH.


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