A Simple Guide to Student Life
Cars in Willamette’s hometown often bear the slogan “Keep Salem Lame.” Perhaps as a response to Portland or just in the way that long, tree-lined streets feel during a light rain—what we Oregonians call “spitting”—the city enjoys its reputation as a quiet place. Willamette, small as it is, might seem to offer the same vibe. Nestled beneath that quiet veneer, however, is a whole world of things to do on campus and in Salem.
On campus, there are a variety of settings to choose from. Some prefer the background noise and conversations in between studying—or the other way around—that the Bistro offers. Goudy is a similar option, either for frenzied, lunchtime work before class or extended study sessions fueled by a concerning amount of Cocina Latina. The library is a quieter option, especially the silent second floor. For a late-night vibe that still has enough people to avoid being spooky, the library’s fishbowl and Ford Hall are both open 24/7. For those who enjoy said spookiness, other halls close their doors at 10 p.m. but students are allowed to remain inside.
Some might venture off campus to study. There are many cafes within walking distance of Willamette, including Venti’s Cafe, Archive and Taproot. For somewhere outdoors, Bush Park is nearby. On 90 acres of paths, woods and fields, the park is sure to provide a perfect spot you will avoid telling other people about in the future.
Salem’s food scene is also full of hidden gems. A popular choice is a McDonald’s on Center Street, but some of the more hidden haunts include the Habanero’s on State Street with affordable burritos, Fork Forty with a variety of different restaurants for a group with different tastes, and The Yard with food trucks for most cuisines. Directly across the railroad tracks from the university there are usually a number of barbecue restaurants, as well as Mediterranean food at Al Aqsa, Indian at Cuisine India and diner style American at Sassy Onion.
There are also a number of shops to explore in Salem. The city’s antique and thrift scene is vibrant. A number of Goodwills always have an interesting selection. A place more local is Engelberg’s, which looks like a nice little boutique from the outside but is in fact a two-story plethora of oddities including baskets of severed doll heads, various taxidermied animals and plenty of Ouija boards. Blast Off Vintage is more clothing oriented, with lots of affordable dresses, sweaters and all sorts of fun hats. There are also regular punk concerts in the basement.
The world of Willamette and Salem offer all sorts of things students often wish they knew earlier. There are examples in everything above, but here are some more rabbit holes you’d do well to find yourself going down. First, Willamette’s gym is essential to many students’ physical and mental health. Sparks has hours every day of the week, and one can quickly figure out times when it’s quieter than usual. In Ford Hall, the Language Learning Center offers tutoring for various languages and the Writing Center offers helpful advice on projects at any state of completion. Another resource that often goes underused is the library. On the library website, virtually any book or article—even deeply obscure ones—are available through Summit or inter-library loan. This isn’t limited to academic texts, either. If your desired esoteric fanfiction was ever put to print, there’s a chance it’s available.
Despite the slogan, Salem and Willamette are only as lame as you make them. This is a difficult task to accomplish given all of these opportunities. Whether off the beaten path or with a whole crowd of friends, sheltered from the rain or out in bright green Oregon nature, there are countless things here that make this place a home.