1.) The restaurant everyone’s talking about
There’s no doubt about it. Athens the Appalachian city that Ohio University calls home is a social environment. Fans of the bar culture won’t have a hard time finding a hangout spot on the campus’ bustling main street. However, I quickly found that not all local watering holes are considered equal. Filled well beyond capacity and catering to the sports crowd, these establishments aren’t ideal for meeting up with friends after a lecture filled Friday. There’s a frenzied nature to them, and the loud music often renders conversation useless.
Now, I know that some people thrive in this atmosphere. I, on the other hand, was in pursuit of a place that had Athens centric food, lively but not overwhelming music, and a certain kind of ambience cue Casa Nueva! This university favorite, located conveniently uptown, serves up Mexican style cuisine that’s made with locally sourced ingredients (small businesses in the area seem to collaborate with one another on just about everything). The restaurant side is your traditional setup with a wait staff and vibrant lighting.
The bodega side is where things get interesting. It’s a feel good bar during the day with a limited menu that’s great for picking up a meal in a flash, between classes. At night, the tables and chairs are pushed to the wayside, leaving a stage for live music with what’s probably the best sound system in the area. So grab a quesadilla with the crew at 5pm, laugh away a few hours, and then get right into the dancing.
2.) Everyone needs some time with nature
While Ohio University’s campus is certainly a scenic one with its tree lined hills and calendar-worthy gardens, students often crave a “getaway” that’s just as breathtaking. Where do they end up? Strouds Run, the nearby State Park that’s only about a five minute car ride from most places on the school grounds.
Cabins are available for rent, though most students like to gather a group of friends and make an afternoon or even a full day of canoeing, hiking or dishing up some barbecue by the water’s edge. You’ll also hear mention of the now famous rope swing that’s nestled off the beaten path. Busy schedules and part time jobs can sometimes make students feel a little boxed in.
What’s so wonderful about Strouds Run is that it’s far enough away to give you a sense of detached clarity, but also close enough that you can get back in time for that dorm room movie night with your beloved Bobcats. The best time to visit is during the spring, when the breeze moves through the trees just right. As a Strouds veteran, I encourage you to pack up plenty of sunscreen to avoid the lobster look come Monday’s presentation.
3.) Libraries can be fun, too
This one might seem like a stretch, but seasoned scholars will know just what I’m talking about. There will inevitably come a point in your college career when you have to spend Friday night in the library textbooks and research papers require a lot of time, patience and coffee. Ohio University’s lauded Alden Library has you covered in all aspects. Its central location and seven levels actually become quite a comfortable retreat once you’ve spent some time at the universities.
Once the novelty has worn off, you won’t want every weekend to be an exercise in unrestrained excitement. For those seeking something more low key and solitary, the library can actually be a great place to just hang out or get some work done at. The third floor is the unofficial ”social” floor that’s home to Café Bibliotech a great spot to grab coffee or a between meal snack and plenty of students sitting around in comfy armchairs just hoping for a conversation with a new friend that’s not about 18th century poets.
If it’s extreme silence that you favor, head on up to the sixth and seventh floors where you’ll find tranquility among the stacks upon stacks of books. To this day, one of my favorite places to spend time at when visiting Ohio University is a window seat on the seventh floor that gives a breathtaking view of the college green. Trust me there’s nothing nerdy about needing a little R&R.
4.) Get the party started
We’ve avoided it this long, but it’s time to acknowledge the fact that Ohio University students like most other students in the country aren’t novices when it comes to putting on a good shindig (read: party of a lifetime). It’s not uncommon to find several off-campus house parties happening on any given street when the weekend rolls around.
The community’s filled with aspiring DJs and musicians who bring these gatherings to life with sounds that become a beacon in the night for those in need of something to do. Be warned: front yard games of Cornhole a beanbag-based gum that’s ubiquitous with the university can get a little intense. In recent years, administrative professionals and local authorities have grown more stringent with underage drinking and noise control. This lifestyle is definitely accessible to prospective students, but it’s more or less earned with a 21st birthday.
That doesn’t mean underclassmen are out of luck, though! With so many extraneous activities happening around the school on every night of the week, there’s always something to do. I happened to get a job at one of the dining halls during my formative years, giving me a bit of supplementary income for a ”fun fund” that also helped sweeten my resume.
5.) There’s no place like home
As enjoyable as Ohio University is, sometimes there’s nothing better than the warmth or familiarity of returning home for the weekend. Most students that I encountered did this several times throughout a semester, especially at peak stress times like when finals were approaching or during moments of duress in their personal lives.
If a student’s family couldn’t pick them up or they didn’t have a car on campus, most relied on Megabus an established bus company in the Midwest to get them to and from at a price not even a broke college student would balk at. There’s no shame in wanting a bit of escape, and when the winter freezes all of Strouds Run beautiful trails, your childhood bedroom might be just what you need.
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.