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Norman/Oklahoma City, OK


vahid1982
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  • 3 weeks later...
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Hi all! I'm a native Normanite who am back again (allbeit briefly). I also did my undgrad at OU. I'd be happy to answer any questions!

First off, the basics. Norman is largely a college town, but there is a pretty regular tension between the wider community and the campus community. The campus is gorgeous, and there is a lot of houses available for rent in the immediate area. There are LOTS of apartment complexes around town, many within walking/biking distance of campus.

There is a bus system (the CART) that runs, but not frequently. They are trying to improve it but, for now, not great. Outside of the immediate campus area Norman is NOT a pedestrian-friendly town. It's very much a car culture.

On the 3.2 beer question - that's all you can get in grocery stores. You can, however, go to a liquor store to buy the real stuff. Plus you can drink better beers (and other stuff) in bars.

The most readily available food will be barbecue or mexican (yummy to both). I have lots of favorite restaurants and bars that I'd be happy to share.

OU is big so you can almost always find your niche. It's great that way. The shopping is not great in town (there is a mall, then a bunch of shops near the SuperTarget). Penn Square Mall in the city has more shops available though. And I do love being back in the land of 24-hour Super Walmarts and CVSs.

Cost of living is really cheap compared to most places (I lived in DC six years). That includes rent, food, gasoline, and so on.

Let me know specific questions!

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Yay! Thanks!!

When you say 'in town,' how far away is that from the campus area?

When you say tension between campus and the city community, I immediately think of the community hating "those crazy liberals"

...sorry, reductive, I know...but I couldn't help but notice every district in the state was red in the last election :| ...so, please forgive my knee-jerk reaction. Can you be more specific?

Are there a lot of independent shops/restaurants etc...or are there mostly chains?

What bands/shows/exhibits typically book there or within driving distance?

Thanks so much!!!!

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OK, when I say "in-town" I really just mean in Norman. Norman, like most cities in Oklahoma, tends to sprawl. I'd say the mall is 3-4 miles from campus, SuperTarget about the same, and so on. There is also a cute downtown area that has some shops and stuff. There are two Super Wal-Marts, tons of CVSs, Walgreens and the other typical chains. There are some unique local-owned shops. There's a great place called Native Roots Market that offers lots of local (Oklahoma) and organic grocery products. There's also another small grocery called Forward Foods (both are on Main Street in the old downtown) which has the best import cheese selection. THe other organic option is Dodson's, which is west of I-35.

As for other shops, there are some cutesie boutiques (some of which can get pricey), but nothing like I got used to on the East Coast. Most of the stores are chains. There are some other fun stores in OKC (about 20 minute drive, more with traffic).

As for tension on campus, it has less to do with politics than an anymosity towards students. OU has a large greek population that used to get really out of control, but Boren has done a lot to get that in check. But the city has passed party-house ordinances, tried to pass one to limit how many unrelated people could live together and so on. And they love to complain about events off campus that have a lot of students. But I think some of it is standard college-town stuff.

As for the politics question, trust me, the fact that Oklahoma is so red terrifies me! But as far as that goes, Norman is a pretty liberal pocket in an otherwise conservative state. There are definitely the scary 2nd Amendment lovin' anti-gay anti-minority people, but they don't express themselves too often. Your biggest concern politically should be the legislature...they keep cutting taxes and ignore the fact that lower taxes means lower revenues...i.e. less money to spend on vital services. But Boren does a great job of advocating for the university.

As for music, there is a Norman Music Festival in the spring. It's a free day-long thing that can be fun. They don't get super-big acts but they get the rising stars. There are also some bars and clubs in town and on the campus corner area (concentration of bars, shops and restaurants just north of campus) that some local bands will play at, and they are often quite good. Some bands play at Lloyd Noble Center (the basketball arena). There are venues in OKC that get bigger acts - most major arena tours go through the Ford Center, and the Diamond ballroom gets the club-venue type acts (Rilo Kiley, Old Crow Medicine Show and other bands that draw similar crowds). There is also a place in Tulsa (Cain's Ballroom) that draws in even more (between the two they get most of the bands that play 930 club in DC). I also think there is a Red Dirt festival in OKC every year, and if you like Red Dirt Country, Stillwater (about 1.5 hour drive) is the home of it.

OU has a good art museum and one of the best Natural History Museums in the country. Both museums will get special exhibits and whatnot. The OKC museum of art is good and gets touring exhibits, and for local artists there are some galleries on Main Street in Norman, UNtitled Art Space in OKC, and the Paseo district in OKC (which also puts on a music fesitval).

There are more local-owned restaurants than stores. One of my favorites is The Mont. It's been around in some form since my Mom was in highschool in Norman. They have good burgers, salads, and mexican dishes, and great (strong) mixed drinks. It's a fun crowd as you get college students, families, teachers in desperate need of happy hour, the young professional crowd, and even retirees there all at the same time. O'Connell's, which is moving to campus corner from its old location, is a Norman tradition (especially on game day) - good burgers and salads and cheap beers. And the list of independent mexican restaurants is long - Los Dos Amigos (my favorite), Tarahumara's, Mamaveca (they also have a Peruvian menu), and La Luna to name a few.

The last thing I'll add is that I really hope you like football, or at least can tolerate it. On game day there are more people in Memorial Stadium than all but four cities in the state. And if you have errands to run on home-game Saturday you'd better do it after kick-off but before the game ends!

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Oops! I forgot to mention Jazz in June (great FREE event that draws big names in both jazz and blues as well as locals). There is also a SummerWind and WinterWind concert series that gets some smaller touring artists, and the Performing Arts COuncil (I think?) puts on other concerts on Friday's at lunch and such. And then events like MayFair draw other acts to their mainstage.

Norman has quite a lot of festivals. Those I mentioned plus the Medieval Fair (usually in April), the Chocolate Festival (it's been on the Food Network several times), and other smaller ones here and there. All of which can be very fun (or very crowded and overwhelming, all depends on your outlook!).

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You have been incredibly candid and helpful. I REALLY appreciate it. The way things are going right now, I just want to get accepted with funding somewhere and there are two faculty members at OK whose work I really admire...so I'm trying to entertain all possibilities. Again, this information helps A LOT.

Thanks so much! :D

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Congrats Stella!

Publicpolicy,

I am coming up to Norman for a few days at the University's request (!) I was wondering if you could tell me a decent, relatively inexpensive place to stay near campus. Also, what would be a nice way to get to know the area... I plan to stop by the Mont, anything else I should do to check out the feel of the place? Drive around a bit? (I am pretty excited, but as a UT undergrad no one around here has any advice to share :shock: Obviously, I will leave the burnt orange at home)

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I'll get back to you on a hotel. There just aren't that many super close to campus (sadly, many alums buy condos or rent apartments near campus to stay at on game days...but you probably see similar behavior among devoted UT alums). Definitely drive around Norman. The campus area is the older part of town and is really pretty. But explore...most shopping and the chain restaurants are on the west side (right around I-35). They have done a lot to revitalize the old Main Street though, so drive that (FYI...The Diner on Main is great for breakfast, as is Sunny Side Up on Robinson street, just west of the railroad tracks). But definitely get out and walk the campus and the area immediately surrounding it.

Oh, and you will get some good-natured teasing about the burnt orange but nothing too scary. There are a suprising number of UT alums/fans in this area.

Congrats Stella! I have something of a love/hate relationship with Norman, but that goes back to growing up here rather than being here now. I really believe it's a great town and is a great place to go to school.

Stella and Sunshine, what are your fields? I'd love to be able to steer you towards some people who can give you honest assessments of what your graduate experience will be like at OU, assuming I no someone in your field!

Good luck to both of you!

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I'm English Literature and Cultural Studies track. I've been talking with Dr. Murphy about scheduling a visit to check out the area and meet faculty and graduate students, so it you know anyone in the program, that would be awesome. It seems as if I'll be headed that way either before March 11th or after March 23rd...so hotel info would be helpful, but I can certainly so some leg work on the internet.

Thanks again! :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

What do you want to know? :-) I went to undergrad there and enjoyed it. Lived in both on campus housing and rented a house the last two years. Rent in Norman is not too bad. It's very close to Oklahoma City, but doesn't have traffic like a big city. There has been a lot of growth, particularly on the west side since I was a student. People are generally nice and helpful. I wasn't really into the bar scene, so I can't tell you about it.

It would help to know where you are coming from and what you are used to if you want to know how Norman will relate to where you are now.

Good luck!

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  • 3 weeks later...

So I just got back from a visit here and I'm 75% sure I'm going to accept their offer. I really liked the town and the area, and everyone who I met was so friendly and helpful! I don't think they make people like that in the Northeast. :)

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I just (like two hours ago) got back from a 15-hour drive there from Florida, and it was worth every minute. I can't say enough good things about the city and OU. In fact, and I'm not kidding, I like it a LOT better than Florida. The people were amazing, too...kinda reminded me of Canada. :D

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I just (like two hours ago) got back from a 15-hour drive there from Florida, and it was worth every minute. I can't say enough good things about the city and OU. In fact, and I'm not kidding, I like it a LOT better than Florida. The people were amazing, too...kinda reminded me of Canada. :D

Seriously, 15 hours?! That's crazy! :o I once drove for 10 hours in one day and felt like the muscles in my back would explode.

And you're right, the people there do have that Canadian hospitality feel. Is OU your first choice?

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Yes, it WAS crazy. Even crazier was that it took it two hours to get out of Memphis....but that's another story...my back is still sore. I actually had to hop on the Internet and research to see if it was possible to give yourself scoliosis :lol:

The first choice question is hard because, yes, now that I know what I know, it undeniably is. However, I started this whole process with a large number of schools (all of which I would have loved to attend) and was determined to not rank them. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that professors, friends, etc make it impossible to not rank. I visited 3 programs before I applied and fell in love with Carnegie Mellon. Had I visited OU at that time, it would have been a more prominent topic of conversation during my application process. My visit there far exceeded all other schools I went to (they're this perfect combination of brilliant, successful, passionate, supportive, and invested in the professional success of their students). I've been accepted/waitlisted at 4 other schools, but they were the first to accept me, they are offering me the most money (in relation to the cost of living which is crazy cheap), and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it....so all signs point to yes.

I compare it to a typical teenage-love movie where a girl spends an hour and a half pining for the seemingly ideal super-stud and then in the last 10 minutes finds out the shy quiet guy in the corner is a million times better than anyone at the school....lame, I know....but you asked :D

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I'm glad the 15 hours ended up being worth it, then, and maybe I'll see you there next fall. :D

So much of the grad school application process ends up being like a really cheesy love story marketed towards teenagers, really. OU is like the completely awesome girl who sits in the back of the room and wears glasses and paints, and you don't know how completely awesome she is and how great of a couple you would be because, you know, she wears glasses.

I understand the draw of a university named after dead industrial tycoons, though. If only OU were sponsored by, say, J. P. Morgan and Charles Schwab (Morgan-Schwab U)! Though both CMU and UPitt apparently invested their money with firms who are now being investigated for fraud (I believe CMU's endowment went to the purchase of collectible teddy bears for the wife of one of their investment managers?), so maybe just "OU" is a safer bet.

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