In some respects, all colleges are the same.
There’s the class-to-class dash, the dorm room drama, and the long hours writing out flashcards during the final exam cram.
But in other respects, colleges are different.
For example, the University of North Carolina is a whole different beast from Columbia.
That’s also true closer to home when it comes to higher education here.
Marshall University is not without its traditions, nor its quirks.
Here are seven experiences you can’t miss while being part of its campus:
1. The Memorial Ceremony
On Nov. 14, 1970, tragedy hit when Southern Airways 932 crashed into a hill just outside of Cerdo, killing 75 people aboard, including 37 players on the school’s football team.
Thirty-seven young men boarded that plane with their lives ahead of them. Perhaps they were reflecting on how to improve their next game; they’d lost by three points to East Carolina.
It was the single deadliest sports tragedy in United States history.
The Memorial Fountain stands outside of the Marshall Student Center at the center of campus, in a touching remembrance of the lives lost on that day.
Every Nov. 14, Marshall observes the crash by turning off the fountain and a moment of silence. For a bustling campus with thousands of students, it is truly powerful to hear the sound of that reflective silence.
The ceremony is definitely necessary for any student at Marshall, a reminder of the legacy each member of the Thundering Herd must carry on as a monument to those who weren’t able to have a future.
2. Marshall Football
Huntington is a city of almost 50,000 people, even more when school is in session. Traffic is steady during the week day on Fifth and Third Avenues. Hal Greer can become an extended parking lot when public schools let out.
But on a fall Saturday, very few cars zip along the roads.
That’s because football is king. Even if you’re not a football fanatic, you best be in a seat at the Joan C. Edwards stadium if there’s a home game. After all, your friends are already there.
Whether you start off at a tailgate or just show up five minutes before kick off, going to a Marshall home game is like nothing else. From the shouts of “We Are, Marshall!” to the boom of Thunderstruck by AC/DC (perfect for the Thundering Herd), this is an experience that will stick with you for a lifetime.
And if you know the right people, there’s usually a party afterwards, win or lose.
3. Club Drinko
Marshall isn’t all athletics. It’s also a center of higher education, a school for the scholarly inclined.
And when midterms or finals come around, The Drinko Library is a good spot to cram. With three floors, there is more than enough space to spread out study materials or meet up with classmates for a group project.
Colloquially known as Club Drinko due to its proximity to Fourth Avenue, the library is a java junkie’s dream. There’s a Starbucks built into it, plus a 7-Eleven and a Speedway gas station within walking distance, for that late night pep.
If you’re like me and you broke your laptop beyond repair mid-semester, the Drinko Library has more than enough computers to write your papers. Copies are 10 cents a piece.
4. The Squirrels
If you’re from the countryside of West Virginia, you know squirrels to be lean crafty little critters who seem to always move at the last second before you squeeze the trigger on your .22.
If you’re from the cities and towns, squirrels are those furry pests that keep raiding your grandmother’s bird feeder, dashing off with a cheek full of seed before when you shoo them away with a broom.
But at Marshall University, the squirrels are ubiquitous with campus life.
In this academic setting, the squirrels are in a weird gray area between wild and domesticated. Between raiding the trash cans and gathering nuts from the trees scattered about campus, squirrels have been eating high on the Herd for years.
And because of the students walking about campus between class, the squirrels have learned to tolerate human presence, leading them to get rather close before they’ll scurry away up a tree.
Consequently, many a bored undergraduate has attempted to catch one of the squirrels. I vividly recall my freshman year seeing three young women using a piece of fruit to bait one beneath a box propped up with a stick.
Last year, a then-freshman Meghan Keller caught a squirrel outside of the Towers dormitory and made the Marshall Parthenon, the student newspaper.
5. Fourth Avenue
Let’s just be realistic here—students are going to drink when they come to college. Many of them away from home the first time, quite a few are going to partake.
Some universities are better known for large house parties at their fraternities, and Marshall certainly has them as well. However, for many university students, bar hopping becomes a rite of passage on a Friday night.
And Fourth Avenue is definitely the spot for that.
Trolling around, walking from bar to bar, running into old friends and slogging down beers is still a viable option.
The bars start right across from campus and now extend into downtown. Students know the popular hot spots, and are happy to share that information with newcomers.
6. The Rec
Want to avoid that freshman 15?
Or do you want to go for a dip? After all, it stays hotter than the three shades of hell until October in Huntington.
Either way, the Rec is the place to be.
With treadmills, basketball courts, a racquetball court, an indoor track, weight lifting equipment and an indoor swimming pool, the Rec is there for any health conscious member of the Herd.
Exercise isn’t just to prevent from packing on the weight after getting filled up at the dining halls.
Given how stressful student life can be, unwinding at the gym is a good healthy option, better than picking up smoking or drinking to excess.
Plus considering the tight knit nature of Marshall’s campus life, you’re bound to run into a friend down there.
7. The Marshall Artist Series
Marshall might be known for its athletics and its scholarship, but there’s also a vibrant artistic community on campus and in the surrounding community.
The Marshall Artist Series is surely a good place for the more artistically inclined students to find an outlet.
Offering plays, film showings and other events, the Marshall Artist Series brings in acts from elsewhere, as well as features performances by student actors and musicians.
Even if plays aren’t your cup of tea, it doesn’t hurt to come out and support one—after all, the tickets are free for currently enrolled students.