Campus Notes: Why Memphis Is an Ideal College Town
Publication Date: 5/21/2014
By Katie Cannon ‘15
Sure, it’s not the cozy college town that sweetened your high school fantasies: a one-horse (or, I guess, gas station), picturesque little enclave where everyone you see on the street is either a student, a professor, or, at the very least, a die-hard fan of the university football team. Memphis is a big city, boasting a metropolitan area that spans three states and a diverse population of natives, transplants, and students alike. However, it’s not NYC—Memphis straddles the gap between feeling anonymous and feeling stifled, a city not dominated by the hegemony of campus culture but not insensitive to it, either. Located in the heart of Midtown, Rhodes gives us students a taste of the real world without leaving us for the metaphorical wolves. While being in a college town in the more traditional sense of the word may have its advantages, here are several reasons why, if you take advantage of it, the 901 can give you a unique and ideal college experience.
I’m not suggesting you should build your college experience around a menu, but let’s be honest: good food makes for a good mood, and happy students are successful students (probably). While Rhodes’ recently-renovated refectory has many healthy and delicious options, should you decide to venture off-campus for the occasional meal, you will not be disappointed. From its renowned down-home barbeque (Central’s BBQ nachos are a gift from porky heaven) to a range of flavorful ethnic food sure to ignite a hunger-fueled wanderlust, Memphis’ eateries will satisfy your every gastronomical whim.
Try: Central BBQ, India Palace, Osaka, Tamp & Tap (started by a Rhodes alum), or anything recommended by www.ilovememphisblog.com.
While Memphis is still haunted by the ghost of Elvis’s swiveling hips, the Bluff City has more to offer than Graceland and the aforementioned barbeque. For college kids, it’s the best of both worlds: a unique historical and cultural personality rooted in the blues, with a new, youthful twist. It’s a city with a mural on every street corner and a festival on any given weekend. From music, to art, to theatre and film, Memphis is a hive of creative activity you can contribute to or simply enjoy.
Go to: Playhouse on the Square, Hattiloo Theatre, the Orpheum, IndieMemphis (film festival), Memphis in May (music festival) and so, so many more.
A city like Memphis is obviously going to have more to offer in the way of immediate and long-term prospects than a lot of smaller college towns; it’s a veritable treasure trove of internships, service opportunities, and potential connections. While Memphis certainly has a lot going on outside the realm of higher education, students here actually have the power to make a difference. For example: in 2012, two Rhodes students started a street newspaper called The Bridge, a publication dealing with homeless issues that homeless people both contribute to and sell on the streets. What began as an idea has now become an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a staff of 60+ students, that after just one year of circulation has put $27,000 into the pockets of homeless vendors. Memphis is a place where people can make ideas into reality.
Get Involved: Ignite Memphis, an event where people can present their ideas and accomplishments in the Memphis Community.
Memphians love Memphis, and it’s contagious. And while Memphis is an eclectic city that supports a wide variety of interests and worldviews, there are a few universals: endless support for Grizzlies basketball and Redbirds’ baseball, a love for music, and friendly people. Rhodes gives you a tight-knit community and its own sort of campus culture, but step outside the gates and you’ll find yourself in a vibrant city bursting with opportunities. Memphis has all the respective advantages of the tiny and the tremendous rolled into one—in a college experience, what more could you ask for?