College Life: How Do America’s College Towns Compare to Europe?

With students returning to school this month, our Danish intern compares the college towns in America with those of her own country

Living in the college town of New Paltz, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to get a taste of the American college life. I’ve also established a few friendships with students who decided to stay in town during the summer and who proudly showed me their campus.

I learned that SUNY New Paltz is spread across a whopping 216 acres and offers students both undergraduate and graduate programs. The buildings are all named after European settlers, and the school houses the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art — and even a planetarium. When I walked through campus, I couldn’t help but compare it to Copenhagen University, where I’m continuing my Master’s degree in September.

My university is over 525 years old, making it one of the oldest in Northern Europe. The faculties are spread all over Copenhagen, but are tiny compared to the size of New Paltz (or any other American university for that matter).

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john harvard statue

Me touching John Harvard’s shoe for good luck and the garden at the business school

Speaking of, I had the pleasure of seeing a world-renowned American university while I was in Boston this weekend. Yes, I’m talking about Harvard!

Known for housing influential figures in the past like president Barack Obama, John F. Kennedy, Nathalie Portman, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Big Bills (Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, duh!), this university has a rich history, making it a go-to spot for people from all around the world.

Tourists flock here to touch the shoe of John Harvard’s statue for good luck; see the Widener Memorial Library, containing millions of books; walk through the beautiful gardens; and buy souvenirs from the entirely student-run Harvard Shop.

harvard brochure student dorms

Free brochure and student dorms

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Walking around, I secretly dreamed of being smart enough (or rich enough) to take my daily classes here.

Students at Copenhagen University don’t have the option to live at campus, and most of them live in a dorm nearby or in a shared apartment. Many will therefore commute to school by train, subway, or by bike, and continue the social activities with friends outside of school. This makes it even more difficult for students to find a strong social community, because everything is happening outside the walls of the university.

What I like about American universities — and what Copenhagen University fails to deliver — is a strong sense of community that students share with each other. American colleges are like small towns, offering students with plenty of after-school activities, great dining spots, coffee shops, museums, libraries, and much more. Copenhagen University, could you please take notes?

Have any questions or recommendations for Anemone? Suggest them as a comment below!

widener memorial library
Me in front of the Widener Memorial Library

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