Deciding where to go to college can be tough.

Part of the difficulty is figuring out where you want to live for the next four years. If the bright lights and restless streets of a city call to you, there’s no better decision than an urban campus. Still, if you’re currently living on a quiet cul-de-sac of a quiet subdivision in a sleepy town, you might have some questions like “Am I ready for this?”

To find out, the best thing you can do is to speak to students and graduates who’ve made a similar choice. Below, meet a few people who chose city campuses and had zero regrets. 

Arielle Tschinkel, New York University in New York City

“I grew up in Brewster, New York, a small town in the suburbs north of New York City. I transferred to New York University in the middle of my sophomore year, going from a small school on a remote suburban campus to the heart of Greenwich Village. I had never lived in a city before and it was extremely different for me. Suddenly, I was on my own not only at school, but also in a city of 8 million people. It was exciting because I’m very independent but definitely intimidating for sure.

“I felt like I was able to explore opportunities I might not have access to if I were in a traditional closed-campus setting. I went to so many museum exhibits, movie screenings and festivals that simply might not exist elsewhere. Every day brought the prospect of a new adventure, and I loved being young, relatively worry-free and able to explore it all. I was not in a ‘campus bubble’ surrounded by people just like me — I was surrounded by people from all walks of life, and I got a chance to meet people I might never have met otherwise.”

“I didn’t feel intimidated at all. I felt like I was right where I belonged, where I’ve always wanted to be.”

– Aubrey Freitas

Aubrey Freitas, University of California in Los Angeles

“Moving to Los Angeles was a very different experience from where I grew up — in a very small farming town in the Central Valley of California — but in the best way possible. 

“I was always very curious. I think that mindset is what made me feel comfortable and excited to be in a big city — I didn’t feel intimidated at all. I felt like I was right where I belonged, where I’ve always wanted to be. 

“For me particularly, going to college in a city was the best choice. I’m a writer and want to pursue that career path. I knew that there wasn’t a future for what I wanted to do in my rural area. In Los Angeles, at UCLA, I feel like there are so many opportunities at my fingertips.”

Jinnie Lee, Emerson College in Boston

“I grew up in Queens [in New York City] for some of my childhood, but I was obviously always supervised and was too young to understand what living in a city meant. I also grew up in the suburbs during my teen years, and it was far more homogenized than living in a city. I ended up going to a school in Boston, which I think of as a very low-key, manageable city. It wasn’t intimidating there, and it was exciting to live on my own.

“One major benefit of going to school in a city is there are more opportunities to intern at well-known companies. It allows you to get a head start. Schools in cities also tend to attract more diverse students, which can be eye-opening and illuminating if you’re from a more provincial hometown. Being in a city also makes it easier for friends and family to come visit.”

Emma Ortiol, University of Washington in Seattle

“Seattle is different in many ways from my hometown — West Hartford, Connecticut — and that’s what has made school so exciting for me so far. I’ve learned things like how to read a bus map and memorized the Light Link Rail route. 

“There is so much to explore around me, which draws me to try new things and see new areas. My sister went to school in a rural area and she found her community within clubs and activities at her school. I have that and more. Seattle offers events and activities along with a diverse crowd of people. I am learning a lot about myself by having a variety of experiences both within and outside of UW.”

“Getting to explore the city without adult supervision may have been the best part. It offered unfiltered perspectives.”

– Jeff Neal

Jeff Neal, Temple University in Philadelphia

“Temple was nice, but the best part was living in Philadelphia. It has a thriving entrepreneurial spirit. Temple is ranked as one of the best business schools in the country, and there are so many vendors, start-ups and young entrepreneurs setting up shop in the city that it’s impossible not to find someone applying their college education to real world purpose. And being able to interact with these people, and seeing how they operate really opened my eyes to what it takes to start my own business.  

“Getting to explore the city without adult supervision may have been the best part. It offered unfiltered perspectives. There were no supervisors guiding your next direction. You could venture down this street or that street, talk with this person or that person, and learn about the various ways people can live. And you learned that it wasn’t about getting a typical 9-to-5 job. You could create a business and spend your days building that business.”

Going to school in a city brings a whole new dimension to the college experience. If you’re up for it, it can be a life-changing experience. 

Interviews for this article were conducted in 2018.