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Cheap activities in and around US university campuses

Though the main point of attending a university abroad is to study, receive a diploma in your respective field and enhance your career, it is important to realize that planned-relaxed free time is also vital to keep you focused and enjoy the experience of being in a different country. In and around most universities there are plenty of cheap activities that are sure to relieve one from the constant daunting workload of university.

Being a student gives you an advantage when wanting to pursue various activities, because many places provide student discounts that one can take advantage of. As discussed in previous blog posts about specific places like Boston, New York, and Zurich there are many options for activities one can find in and around the university. Our suggestion is to first look for engaging activities on campus and then turn to off campus options. The on campus activities tend to be cheaper than off campus.

On-campus activities

There is almost always something going on somewhere on campus, you just need to know where to look. Universities usually have either an online or physical event board on campus where groups post flyers about their events that are taking place. On the university's website there is almost always directly on the home page a tab that also lists the various events that are going on that week. Another good way to keep up to date with all the events and information about school activities, is to follow/like some of the university organizations on Facebook or Twitter, making sure you get notifications about events. Additionally, departments on campus usually like to host speakers and other discussion forums for individuals interested in topics related to the department’s field of research (or who want to learn something new). These events are usually free and open, though you may need to confirm your participation in advance (RSVP).

"Actress Rosie Fellner and director Nicolas Roeg at Crunch 2011" by Wiki 4321 - 
Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

American universities take lots of pride in their school colors, mascots, and especially their sports teams (if they have them). If you have an option to attend your school's sports game, it is a definite must. Being a student at that University usually either allows you to go to the game for a discounted price or completely for free. Even if you are not a huge fan of sports, it is a good way to get out of the schoolwork routine for a few hours and enjoy a fun experience cheering on your school’s team.

"College soccer fans indiana 2004" by Rick Dikeman, aka Rdikeman at en.wikipedia - 
Transferred from en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Another option is to look at your school’s theatre department (if applicable). Many students - just like you - dedicate time and effort in planning and performing for adoring crowds, and are usually very good. Where it can easily cost upwards of $45 to see a show at a local theatre house, because these are on campus they are usually much cheaper, costing between $5-$15 (and sometimes free). The theatre is awaiting you.

"McCarter Theater auditorium from balcony Princeton" by Photo: Andreas Praefcke - 
Own work (own photograph). Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

No matter what time of year, you will see the gyms or physical education facilities packed with people looking to stay in shape or get out some stored energy from the day. Open almost all day, these facilities are usually free for students (who pay through student dues) and usually have up to date training equipment. If you are ever bored on campus go and find a gym or court to play on and kill some time for little to no cost.

"Personal Training at a Gym - Cable Crossover" by - 
Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Off-campus activities

Though they are probably a bit more pricey than on-campus activities, there are plenty of off campus activities one should take advantage of as well to break away from the regular school rhythm.

Sports: Just like your university, many cities have local teams be it high school, minor league or even some professional level that can be just as exciting and affordable as going to collegiate level games. This is your opportunity to see in real life the stars of the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL that you were watching from your home country. Other sports based options where you can practice sports are baseball batting cages, bowling alleys, ice-skating and roller-skating rinks, trampoline parks, and go-karting. All of these options tend to be on the inexpensive side and are a great way to hang out with friends away from the school work environment.

"Bowlerbowling" by Xiaphias. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Movies and Games: There are new movies created and screened constantly. Many times local movie theatres provide student discounts with the hope of bringing in more business for their theatre. Sometimes the theatres also have specials where double-features are shown or it is a specific time of year and certain themed movies are being shown (e.g. Halloween, Christmas). Also, in many movie theatres there are video game arcades where you can go, play games and possibly win prizes.

"San Francisco Rush 2049-Ms Pacman-Ambush Gun-Dragonball" by ilovemypit - Flickr. 
Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Museums and Parks: For those who are more into culture/aesthetics/history, finding local museums and parks can be an affordable option for any student. Local parks are usually free to walk through and if it has a national certification, may also have an environmental center attached to it where you can learn about the local environment. Museums come in all shapes and sizes catering to various different interests from the ancient to modern, and in many cases have student discounts or free admission days.

"Washington in Albany". Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

These are a few ideas to get you started. Before making that final decision of where you want to go for school, make sure that you also check out online the activities both on and off campus in the cities you are considering. This will help you beat the daily grind of school and get the most out of your study abroad experience. There are plenty of affordable, enjoyable opportunities out there, all you need to do is search for them and get out of the library from time to time.


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