St. Louis: A City of Free-dom (and the Perfect Place to be a Student) | Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
Steven Hayworth
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St. Louis: A City of Free-dom (and the Perfect Place to be a Student)

A lot is considered when deciding where to enroll as a graduate school student: the prestige of the university, the quality and number of research faculty, the strength and unique features of each program, and ultimately, how well that program fits you. For me, a large portion of a program’s “fit” was what the city around the university, and what it could offer students both in and out of the classroom. You might be pleasantly surprised to hear that graduate school is not the only thing you do in graduate school. And, since my last blog was about the academic rigors here at the Brown School, I thought I’d highlight some of the amazing features of “St. Louis living” as a graduate student. I have lived all over the United States and abroad, and St. Louis is hands down one of the most student-friendly places I’ve had the pleasure of living. And Washington University finds itself at the center of one of the liveliest and most exciting parts of St. Louis.

What makes our corner of the city so lively and exciting, you ask? Well, let me tell you: there is an alarming amount of free things to do here all year round! The first stop of our tour boasts the most free stuff you may ever find in any national park anywhere across the globe: Forest Park. Besides being a fantastic green space to exercise, explore, and relax either alone or with friends, Forest Park has some other not-so-hidden gems to offer all St. Louisans. Perhaps two of Forest Park’s major claims to fame are the 1904 World’s Fair and, simply, being bigger than Central Park (sorry New Yorkers), but this urban park offers countless attractions for students seeking a few minutes to decompress or even a full day’s excursion of just a fraction of what it has to offer. From the Art Museum and History Museum to the Zoo to the Science Center, somehow St. Louis has managed to keep all of these attractions totally free and, on top of that, each venue hosts countless pro bono events all year round. One recent happening was St. Louis Art Museum (SLAM) Underground, a late night, free, happy hour of sorts to meet local artists, hear great music, and participate in art-making and performances. The Art Museum is otherwise open six days a week to the public and, with regular exhibition changes, there is always something new to see whether you have ten minutes or ten hours.

Besides the Art Museum (which also hosts the free Outdoor Movie Series on Art Hill over the summer–Art Hill offers great sledding when the snow falls) the world-class St. Louis Zoo offers a myriad of events—even in the winter. Recently, with the installation of the Polar Bear Exhibit and arrival of newcomer, Kali the polar bear, the Zoo is an animal and tourist friendly wonderland. There are events like Wild Lights, a holiday-inspired lightshow throughout the entire zoo, which can be both fun and educational ways to break up winter blues! And, if you need to warm up for a bit, you can also stop over in the Missouri History Museum, which provides a look back at events that shaped St. Louis and beyond, with plenty of curious artifacts, informative exhibits and unexpected objects to capture your imagination. And did I mention that all of this is still free, all year-round? Because it is. And it’s amazing.

So, wow. I’m already at my word limit and I’m only a quarter of the way through my original list of outside the Brown School things to do! That’s just a testament of how much there really is to do here in St. Louis (or rather how long winded I am) and how it might be the perfect city for graduate students on a budget. But, I do hope that this gives you a good launching point to start exploring St. Louis and discovering how much this great city can truly add to your graduate school experience.

Because I wasn’t able to get through the entirety of my list, I’ll periodically return to this topic of “Life Outside the Brown School,” as events come up to give you an idea of what wonderful opportunities we have here. Until then, feel free to explore some of the linked sited for the organizations and facilities I mentioned above. And, as always, if you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at any point! Stay awesome!