College towns provide unique opportunities, resources to students, professors, residents

By Pamela Nisivaco

Throughout the day, young college students crowd the sidewalks as they hustle to and from class. When night falls, the sidewalks fill again with young college students on their way to bars, parties and out for the evening. With this stereotypical image of a college town, why would professors and other non-students at the University choose to live in a place where college students are so abundant?

College towns such as Urbana and Champaign are cultural and intellectual centers where people settle to retire, raise families or live the single life in a vibrant locale. Often, college towns offer both the resources of a large city and the atmosphere of a small town.

Andrew Ervin, English faculty member, resides in Champaign, three miles from the Quad, with his wife who is finishing her doctorate in the music department. Originally from Philadelphia, Ervin said he was nervous there would not be much happening socially in terms of entertainment at the University. But he soon learned about the many activities it has to offer students, professors and families living in Urbana-Champaign.

“The greatest thing is the cultural diversity the campus attracts,” said Ervin.

The University’s campus compares to major cities with its diverse population. From this mix, people ranging from retirees to small children and people from different backgrounds can find a variety of things to do. The University frequently schedules a broad range of music, cultural activities and lectures.

Urbana and Champaign may not be as exciting as Chicago or Philadelphia, but the cities provide the benefits of not only being able to go out and party, but also being able to stay in and get work done, Ervin added.

This portrayal makes living in a college town seem idyllic, but there are negative aspects for professors, retirees and families. With a college campus there is the expectation of noise and obnoxious partiers on occasion. According to Emily Strand, freshman in LAS, living in a college town can be a positive experience for professors without families because they gain a better sense of college life and more respect for their students living that life.

“Kids living in a college town grow up seeing a skewed version of college life, and not necessarily the academic part,” said Strand.

Professors and instructors living on or near campus deal with the possibility of running into students outside of the classroom, either at bars or campus events. According to Ervin, this can be both a benefit and a drawback because the experience can either be odd and uncomfortable, or fun and engaging.

The campus life is not for all professors and instructors. Some choose to live further away from campus in rural areas. They seek the solitude and silence of the countryside, but are still able to get a taste of life on campus.

“It’s not a big city, but it has its charms and characteristics.” said Ervin.