Relaxed, happy places to do stressful things
November 27, 2012 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Another "Where should I live" question. Looking for a beautiful, relaxed place to go for a couple of years to take medical school pre-reqs. Details inside.

So, in further planning my possible switch to medicine, I'm thinking that I might want to move somewhere to take my medical school prerequisites. I am looking at post-bacc programs but also want to explore the possibilities of doing it myself.

Assume that I have no ties where I am and can move anywhere in the US. I can move in advance if necessary to get state residency. I'd like a place that has

- A slower pace of life, natural beauty, and a kind culture. I'd like a fairly noncompetitive atmosphere (as much as possible for pre-med classes!) and a relaxed lifestyle to balance the stress of med school preparation
- A state school nearby (prefer 4-year, not community college, just because that's what people tell me is better for admissions) with a less competitive atmosphere
- No long, dark winters; no hot dry deserts
- Some culture - either a quirky intellectual college town type vibe or a distinct and interesting culture that will be a broadening experience for this Left Coast city girl. Not a land of shopping malls.
- Some sort of agreement that in-state residents get preference for admission to medical school would be awesome (I know there's something for western states like Montana, Wyoming, etc.)
- Lower cost of living than NYC, Boston, San Francisco

I'm thinking something like:
(Caveat, haven't been to any of these places for more than a couple of days.)
- Santa Fe, New Mexico
- Aspen, Colorado
- South Florida
- New Orleans, LA
- West Virginia (where?)
- Hawaii
- The Carolinas (where? I was in Charleston once and really liked it, but don't know much else)

Do you live in a town that would be awesome for this?

Thank you!
posted by carolinaherrera to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'll throw out Eugene, OR. Maybe the only criteria it doesn't fit is the winter - it isn't too cold, but it is rainy.

It's beautiful, in the mountains, very relaxed, hippy type culture. Cheap to live. A really great college town.

And the U of O has a good post-bacc program.
posted by Lutoslawski at 7:07 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do your prep at VA Tech in beautiful Blacksburg and then go to the VT med school in nearby Roanoke. Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, nice small city w/a robust downtown complete w/arts, music, greenways, etc. Not a hippy town but also not a typical conservative southern town either.
posted by headnsouth at 7:14 PM on November 27, 2012

Madison, why not? Winters aren't so deep and long, and there's lots of shiny things through them and year-round. Tons of nature. I'm a mile from the capital building, a block and a half from one of the kayakable, fishable, swimmable lakes, and a block from a bald eagle's nest.
posted by mimi at 7:21 PM on November 27, 2012

Asheville, NC, a lovely, hippy mountain town, has UNC-Asheville, a hippy school. Or, move to beach town Wilmington, NC on the coast and go to UNC-Wilmington. UNC schools have some of the lowest in-state tuition rates.

Then, try for UNC-Chapel Hill for their top-notch med school in a fun college town.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:24 PM on November 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Augusta, Ga. Ga Medical is a great school and a hub for the city, the area has a great climate (can get warm in the summer) but a slow pace and buckets of Southern charm. 2+ hours from Atlanta and Savannah for a change of scenery and 3-ish from gorgeous Mountain vistas in the Smokies. We lived there for 10 years and I loved it. May not be on the radar but I'd look into Augusta. Huge medical community, lots going on.
posted by pearlybob at 7:38 PM on November 27, 2012

Omaha, Nebraska. I have lived here three times, and am back. It is a bit slower than what I am used to, but a really unique, lovely town. There's quite a bit of culture here. It's dirt cheap too, which is really appealing. There's a state school here -- UNO -- and several decent medical schools. Additionally, it's pretty much in the middle of America, and so it's quite easy to day trip or weekend trip to a large number of places. Best still, you can pretty much do whatever you want to here, and people get excited by new stuff and want to help. Omahans are social and friendly and decent. It really is a treasure.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:48 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

um, if you want someplace that's cultural in a quirky, intellectual way then you definitely mean Virginia (like Charlottesville, VA, where UVA and its med school are), not West Virginia.

It wouldn't hurt to go directly to a place where a med school specifically is located, either - some of the same faculty teach med school courses and undergrad courses at some locations, and having letters of rec from people who the admissions committee knows is a plus. Also, you'd have easy access to other potential resume-builders like working in labs.

By the way, I know that at least one state, Pennsylvania, has (or did have) a rule that you cannot gain state residency while you are attending school in that state. You have to live there for a non-academic reason to become a resident. Beware of that sort of thing in other states.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:51 PM on November 27, 2012

You have pretty much described Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, CA. (Though I don't know if med schools in that state have any preference for in-state students.)
posted by cairdeas at 8:04 PM on November 27, 2012

New Orleans is a fun place, but it's not beautiful or relaxed. It's "slow" but not in the way you're looking for.
posted by radioamy at 8:36 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might consider Bloomington, IN, home of Indiana University. Lovely rolling hills, winters that aren't too dark (earliest sunset in winter is around 5:30, because it's so far west in the Eastern time zone), nice quirky restaurants, excellent music at the Jacobs School. I lived there for a couple years as a postdoc and I still miss it.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:37 PM on November 27, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

@radioamy, what do you mean by not "slow"? It's not a Southern slow type of place? Are there other cities in Louisiana that might be a better fit?
posted by carolinaherrera at 9:06 PM on November 27, 2012

Uh, Aspen doesn't have any schools. You might try Boulder which has a pleasant hippie vibe mixed in with the yuppies and tons of outdoor activities at its doorstep. I'll second Santa Cruz as well.
posted by fieldtrip at 9:26 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Think about Houston or Austin. Both are very blue patches in an otherwise red state. Houston has slightly better traditional culture offerings, while Austin has better live pop (i use the term very loosely) music. Houston has the Texas Medical Center and really you can't do better in terms of access to whatever you eventually want to do. Cost of living is very low in both cities, and the climate is not desert and tolerable-to-wonderful in the winter.
posted by jph at 9:32 PM on November 27, 2012

I came to say Santa Cruz too, so that's me thirding it.
posted by anadem at 9:38 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

In addition to Houston or Austin, consider Galveston, TX. Island Life really is more relaxed, cost of living is not crazy, and it's where Texas's med school is located, which also offers undergraduate degrees.
posted by Mad_Carew at 9:42 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

South Florida is not slow, in any sense of that word. It's got culture, but not a particularly kind culture. (It's the sort of place that doesn't bother you if you grew up there, but is thought rude by many.) I'd describe it as a Spanish speaking extension of NYC. Also, while cheaper than NYC, SF, etc., it's still expensive compared to a lot of places.

There is some natural beauty nearby in the Everglades, the Keys and the beaches, but none of the sort that you would live amongst in daily life.

You might dig Gainesville, FL (home of UF) or St. Augustine (Flagler College and close (by Florida standards) to UNF and some other schools in Jacksonville).
posted by oddman at 9:43 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Consider Salt Lake City, Utah.
posted by willbaude at 11:54 PM on November 27, 2012

I was going to say Bloomington, IN as well. It's my hometown, has many fine qualities, and is a great deal cheaper than absolutely anywhere I have lived since. I don't know how IUB is on the med school front, but I do know, because I worked there for a while, that IUPUI has a pretty extensive one. IUPUI is in Indianapolis, which is perhaps an hour and a half from Bloomington by car in traffic. So, if you needed to commute to Indy a couple of days a week to take some classes which were not available in Bloomington, it would be quite doable.

Man, now I miss Bloomington.
posted by Because at 1:38 AM on November 28, 2012

Hawaii (Oahu) ticks all your boxes. The weather is perfect, if you don't mind perpetual sunshine. The humidity is a little high but you get used to it quickly, and it's rarely unpleasant due to trade winds. I've heard stories of cut-throat/backstabbing behavior in other pre-med programs (specifically University of California) -- you won't find that here. Life definitely moves at a slower pace. The cost of living is higher than a lot of places but lower than NYC or SF (don't know about Boston). The University of Hawaii just built a new medical school building that's a few hundred yards from the beach. There is culture, but it's not what you're used to, and nothing you'd read about in the paper--less museums, opera, your favorite band coming to play; more your classmate busts out a ukulele between classes and starts playing. I believe there is preferential med-school admission for residents, but they'll also look at how long you've lived here and whether you're likely to stay so that may be a challenge for you.
posted by zanni at 3:56 AM on November 28, 2012

Santa Cruz is gorgeous but UC Santa Cruz is hideously difficult to get into.

UNC-Chapel Hill might be a good fit for you. Husbunny went there and he really liked it.

Chapel Hill is pretty, and the community is pretty progressive for being in North Carolina.

The weather is moderate, although it may snow once or twice in the winter and the summers, while not baking hot, can be humid.

I lived in South Florida and Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton might be good (I picked up a few classes there when I was teaching) it's by no means any kind of world-class university.

Also, I found South Florida (after living there for 12 years) to be congested, annoying and kind of ugly, except for right on the beach.

Have you ever BEEN to New Orleans? I wouldn't recommend any part of the state of Louisiana as a place to live. It's the kind of place where you have to have been born there to be comfortable there. It's hot, muggy, prone to flooding, full of bugs, and corrupt as the day is long.

Now one thing you might be VERY interested in is Pittsburgh, PA. University of Pittsburgh Medical School is an excellent program, and they have a guaranteed admissions program for Freshmen.

Pittsburgh is affordable, and the summers are nice, with occasional heat. Winters, well horrible, but hey, it's a gem of a city and you can put up with a lot for the benefits of an excellent education.

Squirrel Hill and Shadyside are quirky, nifty neighborhoods and very walkable.

As weird as it sounds Pittsburgh is the birth place of culture in America, thanks to Andrew Carnegie's guilt. The Warhol Museum, the Mexican War Streets, Amazing Archetecture, the funicular.

I could rhapsodize all day.

Pittsburgh. As weird as it sounds, you should really check it out.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:16 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Savannah is sort of like Charleston but it's a bit hipper. In addition to 2 state colleges -one of which is historically black- it's got a huge private arts school. Cost of living is low, rents are reasonable, and there's a beach nearby.

The old part of the city is beautiful, and there is a huge National Wildlife Refuge across the river.
posted by mareli at 6:51 AM on November 28, 2012

I grew up in South Fla and lived there for years, and finally came to dislike the trafficky, glitzy, corrupt, materialistic and ugly culture, and moved away. Parts of it are beautiful and there's fascinating history and architecture, but you have to seek it out. Of the other places mentioned, NC is fine but muggy and "southern" with all that culture implies, Northern Cal is wonderful but expensive and very selective, New Orleans is like South Fla with extra humidity and corruption, Madison is excellent but too cold, and Pittsburgh I've liked very much--it almost looks like SF without the bay. Real neighborhoods, a real local culture, too much sports bs for my taste but plenty of arts. Mary Cassatt as well as Warhol, don't forget. Excellent universities. Friendly people.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 8:47 AM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd absolutely recommend Chapel Hill (or, actually, go to school in Chapel Hill and live in its sister city of Carrboro), or Asheville.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:13 AM on November 28, 2012

I came in to vote for Tucson, AZ and to urge you NOT to consider Omaha. Tucson is a lovely college town. Not as hot and dry as Phoenix and plenty of beauty in the mountains.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 10:24 AM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: Also, another question:

I've heard there is a lot of preference for in-state Ohio residents at Ohio medical schools. What's the best town in Ohio to do the pre-reqs, considering the points above (and no mountains, of course).
posted by carolinaherrera at 12:24 PM on November 28, 2012

Just a clarification re Texas options:

Galveston *does* have a medical school, but the cost of living in Galveston has increased massively since Hurricane Ike (oh, yeah, uh, it also occasionally gets wiped off the map), and UTMB's future is rocky at best. There are now several other medical components to the University of Texas system, with more coming online. With the rise of the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Galveston's importance is ever diminishing. It is a cute place, and offers a very quiet pace of life along the beach. I grew up there, so if you have any specific questions, I'll be happy to answer them. It has a decent, smaller art scene (mostly visual with some national tours and musical acts coming through to play the Opera House, which is a really neat venue). And bonus: it is 45 minutes from Houston so you have access to the big city stuff.

Houston has a medical school. As well as several other universities (including some low-cost, state options) where you could pursue your pre-reqs. If you are comparing cost of living in all three places in Texas, Houston is probably your least-expensive option.

Austin has just been approved for their own medical school which will be coming online sometime soon. Texas universities have general preference for in-state students, and I'm sure the medical school will be no different. But additionally, they'll be working on accreditation and so you can almost guarantee that in the first few years while they are building their programs they'll be offering incentives to their students. Furthermore, anything associated with the University of Texas System (and UT Austin specifically) is guaranteed to have a solid reputation (if not immediately, soon).

Disclaimer: I work for a medical component of the UT System, so I am biased.
posted by jph at 1:28 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also recommend Eugene, though it may have grown since I was there many years ago. We frequently went from skiing in the mountains to hiking the dunes and swimming in Florence in the same day. There were areas to ski back to where the birds flew right up to perch on our hands. Winters are indeed rainy but the summers are glorious.
posted by Mertonian at 11:55 PM on November 28, 2012

Charleston does have the Medical University of South Carolina, as well as the College of Charleston for undergrad. It's a great town to live in with very mild winters (we're currently bundled up for 40s at night and 60s in the day). It's got a great small town atmosphere with actual things to do. If you're used to the Left Coast, it will be a definitively different culture, without being crazy redneck awful (like the rest of SC). I almost never visit a mall and do the majority of my shopping in local businesses downtown or just over the rivers. The cost of living is pretty cheap if you're used to major metropolitan areas.

My other favorite place in the world is Charlottesville, VA. It has UVA for undergrad and med school and has an amazing quirky social/cultural scene even outside of the university. It might be a bit too intense for you if you're looking for laid-back educational environments though.
posted by This Guy at 7:31 AM on November 29, 2012

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