St. Louis is an underrated city. There are great activities going on, competitive sports teams, unique food, and brilliant people. Being so immersed at WashU, it’s easy to forget that there is more than just the campus. After finishing up freshman year and having the opportunity myself to get off campus frequently, it’s something I would highly recommend for five key reasons:
1. You can get involved in the St. Louis business community
Last semester, twice a week, I took the metrolink to TopOPPS, a St. Louis pipeline management and predictive forecasting startup, where I was an Operational Marketing intern. I have also gotten the chance to tour St. Louis incubators T-REX and TechArtista.
T-REX working spaces, courtesy of downtowntrex.com
You don’t have to be interested in entrepreneurship for this to be applicable to you. Interning with a startup can be an incredible opportunity for anybody (that can sometimes even be paid!). At a small company there is a large opportunity to make a difference and get great hands-on skills. It isn’t likely that you could go work for a company with 1,000 employees and have the freedom to get started on a new idea right away, or to work hand in hand with the head of marketing (although if you wanted to go work for a bigger company in St. Louis, I bet you could find success there, too). By working with TopOPPS I learned a tremendous amount about sales and marketing, and the culmination of my time with TopOPPS and within the St. Louis entrepreneurial community has introduced me to some great people over the past year who have taught me a lot, helped me expand my network, and improved my depth of understanding of the St. Louis entrepreneurial and business community.
2. The food in St. Louis is great
Don’t get me wrong, I love what we have to eat on campus. But day after day and year after year, sometimes it can get tiring. Plus, St. Louis was ranked in the top 15 for food by NerdWallet last summer.
The Delmar Loop. WashU photo.
It’s about the same cost to go out to eat as eating on campus (your 6.50 meal point stir fry is the equivalent of $9.02 if you’re on the silver plan), and it can be as quick as you want–the Delmar Loop, with a wealth of eclectic and traditional dining options, is a short walk away. Some of the best moments I had last semester were going off campus to eat–not only for the great food, but also for the meaningful time spent with whoever I went with.
3. There are great activities going on in St. Louis
First there are sports. Cardinals games are a blast, and the Blues just had one of their most successful seasons ever (RIP Rams). WashU is constantly giving tickets away and there are always deals to get them cheap. Second are the touristy activities, like the Arch, City Museum, and Zoo–all staples of St. Louis. Third are the events in the city. With the second biggest Mardi Gras in the country, great local microbreweries, and streets full of food trucks, there are new things to do all of the time.
Fair St. Louis crowd on Art Hill at Bonnie Raitt concert July 4.
4. Get a break from the WashU bubble
During the school year most of us spend so much time in the same few places (which, if you’re in Olin, is probably a lot of Simon and Bauer). It’s easy to get tired of the same routine. Getting off of campus not only provides a new and exciting way to spend a day and experience new things, but it also helps get your mind off of your homework and tests. And, you never know what you could learn from meeting others in St. Louis who don’t go to WashU.
5. It’s easy
We get free U-passes, a lot of us have (or have friends with) cars, and the Delmar Loop is a 15-minute walk from campus. Some Olin students might say, “But I don’t have time to get off campus.” And for almost everyone, I am going to call your bluff. Last semester, despite pledging a fraternity and working on my baseball blog, I was able to devote 8 hours a week to my internship plus the occasional Cardinals game or off-campus dinner. Most of us have no class Friday, and sleep incessant amounts over our three-day weekends. It’d be easy to pick one of those days each weekend to wake up early and go explore the city with friends. You’ll create memorable experiences, get out of the WashU bubble, and take advantage of the city that will be your home for four great years. When the year starts up, things will get crazy and it might seem tough to find time, but by making a commitment now that you will get off of campus more, and by prioritizing it when you get back, you’ll surely be able to do so.