« on: January 08, 2006, 04:03:24 PM »
Well, I made it home yesterday from a 2300 mile car ride that took us to Ann Arbor, Urbana-Champaign, and St. Louis. In case anybody is interested in hearing about it, I'll type up my thoughts.
Ann Arbor: Because I'm going to visit UMich during one of their admitted student weekends in March, I didn't visit the law school (except to walk through the quad and take a few pictures). Instead, we spent two days in Ann Arbor looking at about 15 apartment complexes that we had read about online. The apartments ranged from the extremely nice to the very shoddy, but they all seemed to be in about the same price range (about $700-$1100 for a 1 bedroom, slightly more for a 2 bedroom). The wife and I agreed that Signature Club, Briar Cove, and Ironwood Place were the best of the lot, although there were a couple of others that would have been livable.
As for the city itself, we were both fairly disappointed. I can't really explain why, except to say that it didn't live up to expectations. That's silly, because I can't really articulate what my expectations were, but that's what I feel like. In describing the city to family, I've said that it reminded me a lot of Europe. It was extremely liberal (John Kerry '04 and Impeach Bush signs were all over the place, but that's not a bad thing for us). Getting around the city (even with a map) was very difficult (although my wife isn't the best navigator). Rarely do streets intersect at right angles, it is often the case that a particular street will change to a different street for no particular reason, sometimes in order to stay on the street you want to be on, you have to turn at a light or something instead of going straight, etc. Traffic was also horrendous for a city that size. Another European-like quality of AA is that there seem to be no signs anywhere. That is, here in Oklahoma you can drive down the main streets in Norman and figure out where you want to eat by looking at the many hundred-foot signs sticking up into the air. Not so in AA. Even ubiquitous restaurants like McDonald's had no signs, only the distinctive color of their roof to let you know where they were. Indeed, we drove past a restaurant that had been recommeded to us (Zingermann's) several times before we realized (after we had already given up and eaten somewhere else) that that building on the corner was the restaurant. Another European quality is that the campus is split up into several parts. That isn't a big deal, I think, to us law students since we'll be going to the same spot. Still, it makes for a less cohesive campus than I guess I'm used to.
Good things about Ann Arbor include: great weather (I love cold & gray), a fantastic-looking downtown area, the gorgeousness (obviously) of the Law Quad, and some other minor things.
So, we're going back in March, as I said, and I hope the trip goes better. Has anybody else found that it's a difficult city to get around in? I hope I'm not the only one, although I guess if I am then it has to get better eventually. I'm interested in seeing whether it's a poorly-constructed city or if my wife is just that bad at reading maps. ;-)
Urbana-Champaign: We hadn't really planned on going through UC because Google Maps had us going through Springfield. We realized it was only slightly out of the way, however, so we stayed there on Thursday night and looked around the town just briefly Friday morning. The town seemed decent, especially after seeing the rest of Illinois. It had what looked to be a good-sized mall as well as about all the chain restaurants you can think of. We got lost again (recurring theme on my trip) so we saw a lot of the residential part of town and it again seemed decent. It sucks to not really have much of anything nearby (Chicago and St. Louis are far away), but it looked like you could get along pretty well in the town.
The campus, though, was pretty bad. We drove through it as best we could and looked at everything from the car. From the street, at least, everything looked really dirty and run-down. There was also, I kid you not, an extremely large cemetery right in the middle of campus. That was bizarre.
So maybe things would have been nicer if we had gotten out of the car and looked around, but we had to get to St. Louis. So take my pithy review with a grain of salt. We just saw it from the road.
St. Louis and WUSTL: So then we went to St. Louis. The University is located on top of a hill in the middle of what seemed like a pretty nice area of town. We got there early so we explored the Delmar Loop, I think it was called. There were lots of restaurants and shops and it seemed like a cool area.
We then went to WUSTL's open house. The law school is a great looking building on a great looking campus. All of the buildings looked immaculate and the campus was gorgeous. Very clean, beautiful, and open. The inside of the law school also looked very nice. The students we heard from all said great things about the law school (and they seemed to be answering questions honestly.) They spoke very highly of the clinical opportunities that exist. There are eight or nine different clinics, I think, and every student is guaranteed to get into one, if you so desire.
We then took a tour of the law building. This was probably the most unimpressive part of the day. Most disappointing was the library, which seemed REALLY small. Now, maybe we were only lead through a small portion of the library, but since it was contained in the one building, it really seemed small. Even more disappointing than the apparent lack of resources was the dearth of study spaces. There were a few, but not many. And all the students we talked to said that they study most often at home or at one of the undergraduate libraries. The classrooms all seemed nice, though. The whole campus is wireless-ready, and all the classrooms have outlets to plug in laptops.
Then we all got herded into a big room where we heard a short talk from one of the professors. His name, I think, was Drobek or Drabek or something like that. He teaches Civ Pro, among other things, and talked about how he teaches cases like International Shoe. He seemed like an excellent professor as well as a really nice guy. I really enjoyed his lecture.
We then heard from the director of Financial Aid as well as a panel of three alumni. The Fin Aid lady seemed very nice and helpful, which is good. The alumni seemed pretty good and spoke well of WUSTL's national reputation (even though they all worked in St. Louis firms). One thing, however, that neither the alumni nor the current students seemed to think very highly of was the Office of Career Services. They didn't come out and say it, but it was just kind of the vibe I got. They kept saying how OCS would help you out, but it was ultimately up to you to do all the work. This is the case at all schools and all fields, I'm sure, but they just didn't seem too enthused about the whole OCS experience. One student even tried to temper her criticism by saying something like "but as you visit other schools you won't really find anybody who likes their school's OCS." This certainly may be the case, it just sounded a little fishy to me.
So I hope this was of interest to somebody. Sorry I couldn't talk more about the law schools at AA and UC, but the purpose of our trip was really to find out more about housing and quality of life. I'll post law school trip reports in March when I plan on going to a bunch of places. Let me know if you guys have any questions!