Living the Rural Iowa Life (A College Student Perspective)


Hey everyone! I’m a second-year student at Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA. Grinnell is located smack dab in the middle of Iowa farmland, and it’s a small town itself, with a population of around 10,000. Whenever people learn this about Grinnell, they tend to ask if I ever get bored living in such a small, rural environment. The answer: NO! Small-town life is way better than most people realize. Here’s a list of a few of my favorite places in Grinnell.

Saints’ Rest Coffee House. This little coffee shop in the downtown area is a popular hangout for students who want to get away from campus for a couple hours, and it’s frequented by townies as well. Local art hangs on the walls and bookshelves are filled with volumes about Grinnell’s history and culture. Plus, they make a mean chai latte!

Grinnell, IA

Second Mile. Second Mile is a resale shop in town that has anything and everything, from shoeboxes full of vintage postcards (great dorm decoration!) to school supplies to lots of clothes. In case you didn’t know, Grinnell was voted the #1 Hipster School in the country by the Huffington Post. There’s nothing a hipster loves more than scoring an oversize Bill Cosby sweater at Second Mile. The best part? Everything is incredibly cheap!

Relish. Formerly known as The Phoenix Cafe, Relish is Grinnell’s resident “fancy restaurant.” While it’s on the pricier side for a college kid’s budget, it’s the perfect option to celebrate the end of finals week with friends, or for when your parents (and their wallets) pay you a visit!

Grinnell Historical Society Museum. As a volunteer docent, I have to sing the praises of this historic Victorian home turned museum on Broad Street. If you find yourself with an unoccupied weekend afternoon, you can’t go wrong with popping over for a very informative and very free tour! There are also thousands of records on local history if you ever need to do a research project.

CERA. Short for the Conard Enviromental Research Area, CERA is a prairie reserve associated with the college’s Center for Prairie Studies. Iowa used to be 99% prairie land, but now that percentage has shrunk to less than 1%. Of course, these five destinations are just a small sampling of what Grinnell offers. The most important thing to remember is to get off campus occasionally and explore your new home! Get involved with town life in any way you can. This goes for every student, not just those at Grinnell. Keep learning about and connecting with your college town, and you’re in for a rich and varied college experience. Happy exploring!

*Mary Adams is a member of the Grinnell College Class of 15′. The aspects of Grinnell College Mary likes best are the “People, the academics, and the nature.”

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