-Gas prices don't differ enough to be a huge factor (unless you're an ISTJ, then you'll want to wait until gas goes down 4 cents until you fill up your gas tank).
-People drive pretty bad just about everywhere. I've been to small towns thinking that I wouldn't have to deal with it anymore. But, alas, every town has a "main drag" where most of the cars have to travel on and, well, suffice it to say that people are people.
-Cities like L.A., San Fran, Phoenix, and Las Vegas are not "slower paced" than the big cities on the east coast. I do not think you will be shocked or amazed at the difference of pace. Being from Southern California, I can go to New York, Boston, or Philly and it doesn't feel like anything is "speeding up" for me. That's just a big city thing. L.A. is the 2nd largest city in the U.S. Somebody's getting stuff done. :workout: If you ever feel homesick, just go to Phoenix or L.A. There's a huge rat race going on in both cities that will make you feel right at home.
Cynicism aside, you can be happy anywhere you go and I'm sure you'll do great!
So I'm currently in Tempe. I'm posting from ASU's library, and I'll be touring the school tomorrow. I've walked around and the city of Phoenix kinda blows but so far ASU's Tempe campus is actually really cool. The library is enormous, all the architecture is really cool. The place has a nice ambience to it, the weather is beautiful, the people are good looking and really friendly, the food is great. I like that the campus is big but inaccessable to traffic, and I like how it's centralized and not spread over the city.
2] Campus: beautiful. The landscaping and the architecture are imaginative and provide a very peaceful atmosphere. There is also a very active campus life; it appears as though it would be difficult to be bored here. There are constant lectures by guest speakers and shows put on by the art department. There is an enormous, up-to-date gym with racquet ball courts, and outdoor olympic sized pool (which is barriered into three seperate pools, two of which are for laps, one for leisure). The library (the one from which I'm currently posting) is fucking gargantuan. It's one of four on the Tempe campus and is open 24/7 It's good to be a night owl.
3] Dorms: considering my major (architecture), well furnished dorms that can be rearranged to fit my own tastes and those of my future roommate. The dorms are also conveniently located, being about a quarter-mile walk from the school of architecture and landscape architecture. And because architecture students reside in this particular building there are drafting rooms so one can work without having to treck to the actual school of architecture. The dorms are not suite-style, meaning the bathrooms are community, but there is a community kitchen, so I can cook when I want to. There are also rooms to practice music that I can reserve ahead of time. Freakin' sweet.
4] Student body: diverse. The largest university in the United States: 74,000 students at four campuses, with planned fifth and rumored sixth campus on the way. Students from all fifty states and over 100 countries. And despite the enormous population, the average class size is 20-35, with the only exception of 200+ student lecture classes.
5] A very progressive, forward-thinking school. Professors are all active professionals in the fields in which they teach. Fourth year and graduate students regularly accompany their professors on field work and research. The school emphasizes community impact, in which students actually take part in real projects in and around the community, outside the campus. The university is also working toward carbon-neutrality, which it plans to achieve by the middle of the decade. The school also emphasizes interdisciplinary, interdepartmental education. Students are strongly encouraged to minor in related fields, and to study abroad.
6] School of Architecture: This was my favorite part. Students have 24/7 access to the studio and to the architecture library. One only need swipe their card key to gain access. And third and fourth year students are actually provided with their own private studios which they alone can access for the entire semester. The school is part of the larger Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. The school is constantly displaying exhibitions and galleries. The Institute includes its own art museum. I can continue to take bass lessons when I get to Arizona State; graduate students in the music department give private lessons which do not count towards credit hours.
7] The architecture program here is actually more competitive than I predicted. First year students, in addition to keeping up their GPA must complete what's called a degree milestone. This essentially means that at the end of their second semester they must submit a portfolio to a jury which will determine wether they can continue onto the remaining three years. Spots are limited. There are roughly 60 spots, and roughly 150 applicants. The odds are stacked against my favor. However, this fits very nicely into a plan that I just formulated today:
Two years ago, ASU opened the Global Institute of Sustainability. It is the first school dedicated to sustainability in the country, and students can pursue a bachelor of science degree or a bachelor of arts degree in sustainability. The Institute requires (I believe) that students have a particular specialization. So, if I do not complete the degree milestone to continue with the architecture program (and I'm still iffy on if that's "what I want to do with the rest of my life" anyway), I can specialize in architectural sustainability. I asked a student advisor and learned that if I do not make it past the degree milestone, I can still take classes in architecture, just not studio classes. This sits nicely with me, because while architecture fascinates me and illuminates my soul, the topic of sustainability and making this world a place that a living, breathing, sensitive human being would want to live in lights a veritable fire in my tummy.
That's all I can think of for now. I'll post pictures when I get home!