LLM GUIDE Focus on Student Life: The Ivy League

A tour of some the oldest and most prestigious university towns in the US

A bit of trivia: It’s hard to say exactly where the name “Ivy League” comes from, but one common story is that when aNew York Tribune sportswriter compared four universities’ teams in the northeastern United States, he called them “Ivies” – “four” in Roman numerals is “IV,” or “Ivy,” phonetically.

Today, the “Ivy League” is a term used for eight of the oldest and most celebrated universities in the nation. Some of the schools do not have law programs (Brown, Dartmouth, and Princeton), but international LL.M. students studying at the others will encounter a variety of people and living situations on these diverse campuses.

Columbia University is located in New York City’s affluent Upper West Side, and students benefit from the city’s vibrant, diverse life. And, since New York is one of the world’s legal hubs, law students come to think of the city as “Columbia’s laboratory” (at least that's what the school’s website says).

Housing options near to the campus are limited and relatively expensive, but New York City’s cheap and efficient public transportation system allows students to live in any one of dozens of the metropolitan area’s distinct neighborhoods. Popular neighborhoods for students in Manhattan include the East Village, Chelsea, and Harlem. More adventurous students can find less expensive areas in Brooklyn or Queens.

Wherever you plan to settle, don’t expect Big Apple living to be cheap. Columbia estimates that room and board can add up to over 1,600 USD a month. Rents can vary widely by neighborhood, so shop around. International students also have the option of living in a dormitory room or studio in Columbia’s International House, which is a stone’s throw from the university in Manhattan.

It may be hard not to get distracted in “the city that never sleeps,” with its Broadway shows, films, and live music going late into most evenings. In this city, students will undoubtedly encounter more culture than they ever imagined.

Cornell University is in the city of Ithaca, New York, located on a hill that overlooks picturesque Cayuga Lake. Since Cornell is only one of several universities in this town of only 30,000 people, Ithaca is very student-friendly, if not student-focused. Although off-campus housing is available, many students instead choose to live in one of the many on-campus housing options.

Prices for rooms here vary, but can be as little as about 500 USD a month for a single in a four-bedroom apartment. For those seeking a more “typical” college lifestyle, there are graduate houses in “Collegetown,” the city-like section of the south campus, complete with its own pubs and video stores.

Off-campus activities include exploring the area’s natural beauty, going to the celebrated local theatres, or experiencing live bands playing the “Ithaca Sound,” (an eclectic mix of traditional and modern music). Just make sure you pack for a variety of weather, as it’s cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer.

Cambridge, Massachusetts is also an academically-oriented city, holding within its borders Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and others. While academics are certainly a centerpiece of Cambridge, they are not the only thing you’ll find here. The city also has a solid technology industry and an extremely diverse community.

But because it is essentially surrounded by universities, it is undeniably student-friendly, with a budding bike-share system similar to Paris’ Vélib, a modern mass transit system, and a variety of pizza parlors and pubs.

About half of Harvard Law’s LL.M. students live on campus in one of several residence halls. Depending on amenities and size, accommodations in one of the halls can range from about 650 to 1400 USD a month. Those who choose to live off-campus can find many apartments within walking distance of the law school.

If, while studying for your LL.M., you somehow manage to have some free time, both Harvard itself and Cambridge have a wealth of attractions, including museums and a strongly multicultural music and arts scene. And just a few subway stops away is Boston, where students can experience the city’s famous nightlife, but the historical locations that defined the city’s role in the American Revolution.

Speaking of cities that played a role in the American Revolution, The University of Pennsylvania can be found in Philadelphia, the sixth-largest city in (and former capitol of) the United States. UPenn is considered its own neighborhood within the city, and as such the atmosphere has a more small-town feel. Penn Law students can choose to live in the school’s graduate dorms (conveniently one block away from the law school,) which range from about 700 USD from a single room to 1200 USD for an apartment. A student seeking less expensive lodgings can find rooms in Philadelphia’s Center City (the downtown area) for as little as 550 USD.

Finally, Yale University is in New Haven, Connecticut, a city often referred to as “The Elm City,” because of its impressive canopy of the trees. Smack dab in the heart of the city’s downtown, Yale is the nation’s third-oldest university (only Harvard and the College of William and Mary are older).

Most law students choose to live off-campus, and there are many apartments within just a few blocks of the law school. Contact the university for their off-campus housing list, which catalogs apartments that can be easily and safely rented by students.

During their spare time, students can enjoy the historical beauty of the “New Haven Green,” in the city center, or check out the burgeoning art scene of the surrounding community. Additionally, since New Haven is almost right between both New York City and Boston, students can easily take weekend trips to either of the larger cities.

Some other practical matters and info sources:

Most international students enter the U.S. on an F-1 visa, which requires a visit to a U.S. embassy. Be sure and make an appointment at the embassy well in advance of your intended travel to the United States.

Craigslist is a user-driven listing website where you can find anything from apartments for rent to used guitars. 

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