*Street cred: The quality of commanding respect in an urban environment

In the city, there’s always something going on. For many students who go to school on urban campuses, that’s the whole point.

Some urban schools in the United States have self-contained campuses — such as Rice University in Houston or the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia — while others are integrated into their cities, like George Washington University in Washington and New York University, centered around New York’s Greenwich Village.

Both types of campus offer the advantages of city living: museums and performing arts centers, public transportation and diverse populations.

Shawn Abbott, the dean of admissions for New York University (NYU), thinks diversity attracts international students.  “At NYU, where we enroll the largest number of international students in America,” Abbott said, “students get to live in a city where nearly every language in the world is spoken and where micro-neighborhoods are easily accessible,” he said. “International students find elements of their own communities — shops, cafes, restaurants — that make a place like New York less intimidating.”

“Adjusting to life in a large metropolitan area can sometimes be a little easier than moving to a less-urban locale,” said Tony Tambascia, who directs an office that helps international students enrolled at the University of Southern California, which is located in the heart of Los Angeles. “Many international students come to the U.S. from large, globally oriented urban areas themselves.” 

Here are some low-cost pastimes enjoyed by students taking a break from their studies in a few of America’s biggest cities.

New York

Washington Square Park is an unofficial gathering place for students from New York University. (© AP Images)

Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park, a central meeting place for students at New York University, hosts frequent live-music and other performances.

Festival of San Gennaro

Every September, Mulberry Street in Little Italy is given over to an 11-day fair featuring parades, food and street vendors for the Festival of San Gennaro, started in the 1920s by Italian immigrants to New York.

Museum Mile

The stretch of Fifth Avenue from 82nd to 105th streets houses nine museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Most of the museums offer discounts on admission for students.


In addition to its undergraduate programs, the University of Chicago has six professional schools. Its law faculty once included Barack Obama. (University of Chicago)
The University of Chicago’s law faculty once included Barack Obama. (University of Chicago)

Music festivals 

Jazz and blues music have long histories in Chicago, and every year the city hosts a free festival for each genre. The Chicago Blues Festival is held in lakefront Grant Park in June, and the Chicago Jazz Festival is held in Millennium Park at the beginning of September.

Open House Chicago

This free, weekend-long event, which takes place each fall, gives locals and visitors access to Chicago’s famous skyscrapers and other architecturally significant buildings.

Neighborhood festivals

Like New York, Chicago has an array of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct characteristics. Many hold neighborhood festivals to celebrate residents’ heritage, such as the Taste of Latin America in Logan Square or Flavors of Mexico in Little Village.

Los Angeles

The Doheny Library at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (Wikimedia Commons/Padsquad)

Los Angeles Farmers Market

Open seven days a week and located in the Fairfax district, the Farmers Market has food stalls, restaurants and open-air grocers. Though many cuisines are offered, there’s an emphasis on Latin American and Asian food.

First Fridays at Abbott Kinney Boulevard

From 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, Abbott Kinney Boulevard merchants host street vendors, music and artists in Los Angeles’ Venice Beach neighborhood.

Santa Monica Pier

The historic Santa Monica Pier has shops, restaurants, a historic carousel and amusement rides. During summer, it’s the site of a free concert series with a lineup including everything from reggae and indie rock to rhythm and blues.

Whether or not city life is for you, there’s a U.S. college that will meet your needs. Follow ShareAmerica to learn more about how get the most out of studying in the U.S.